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Byron Shire
December 1, 2023

North Creek rock wall breaking down?

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Public seat falling into sinkhole near North Creek Rock Wall. Photo David Lowe.

The last Ballina Shire Council meeting included a deputation from Margery Fitzgerald, who lives near a section of the North Creek wall which is eroding dangerously, exacerbated by the recent flooding.

The long-time Ballina resident said the public walkway on Crown land between Owen Street and Commemoration Park was becoming a safety hazard requiring an urgent solution.

Ballina in flood recently, looking towards North Creek. Photo David Lowe.

‘The flood has accelerated continual, devastating erosion,’ she said. ‘Already the embankment has been undermined, with sinkholes developing and growing.’

She said that considering the site was right next to the site of Ballina’s regular Sunday markets, it was in need of emergency repairs, not just orange safety tape, with risks of litigation if someone was injured.

Ms Fitzgerald said, ‘Wash from boats and jet skis will exacerbate the already undermined embankment. I’m very passionate about the environment and I have watched this emergency evolve. And I have seen many people in shock as they identify the creek swallowing up the embankment.’

Cr McCarthy’s motion

This deputation was in support of a motion from Cr Steve McCarthy to find funds to cover emergency restoration of the rock wall.

Sinkhole beside the cycleway. Photo David Lowe.

Cr McCarthy said the sinkholes started to appear about eight months ago, saying it had to be fixed now as the situation had been made much worse by the flood, and would create a lot of problems down the track.

‘I don’t think we have the money,’ he said. ‘I think it has to be a state grant. We have to get it done properly.’

Staff engineer John Truman said that considering the long list of jobs needing attention around the shire, the rockwall had not been ‘high priority’, with the need for natural disaster funding to do a proper long term repair.

Speaking in support of the motion, Cr Jeff Johnson said he’d spoken with local residents concerned about significant erosion in the area, which could impact on houses and roads in the future.

Another new sinkhole. Photo David Lowe.

‘I think it’s really important that… we do look to maintain these boundaries along the creek before they get even more expensive.’

Cr Kiri Dicker also spoke in support of the motion, but said Ben Franklin MLC was not the appropriate person to write to, as he was no longer the Minister for the North Coast.

After further questions, Ballina GM Paul Hickey said, ‘let’s write to the state and federal government parliamentarians… We’ll get the letters out there. We can guarantee you that.’

John Truman said until further funding eventuated, the temporary orange safety barriers would have to suffice.

How urgent is urgent?

Cr Eoin Johnston asked what constituted urgency, using the example of a fatality creating a road black spot. Mr Truman repeated that priorities would have to be weighed up, saying the risk to people using the cycle/foot path was not yet that great.

Damaged section of rockwall near Commemoration Park. Photo David Lowe.

‘It’s not urgent in the sense of presenting immediate risks to the property or the footpath behind it. It’s just the loss of amenity on a very popular piece of the path,’ he said.

The motion was reworded to write to parliamentarians seeking ‘support to urgently undertake essential repair works to restore the embankment in the proximity of RSL Lifecare Limited, Missingham Bridge, Owen Street and Norton Street precinct, to avoid the loss of parkland and foreshore areas, and to ensure that this heavily trafficked area is once again safe for pedestrian and resident access.’

This was passed unanimously, with Cr Nigel Buchanan not present.

Margery Fitzgerald, who was still waiting in the public gallery, looked happy with this result, shaking the hands of councillors as they broke for morning tea.

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