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Byron Shire
August 15, 2022

Byron biz on edge for Easter as mop-up continues

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Fears of yet another damaging deluge in and around the Shire this week are easing, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicting heavy falls for Friday only.

But with recent weather predictions proving less-than-reliable, and soils across the catchment still soaked and sodden, most locals are not yet ready to heave a total sigh of relief.

The safety and liveability of people’s homes remains the key focus, but business owners – particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sector – are also worried about the impact of further flooding as the crucial Easter period approaches.

‘Even before the floods, 60 per cent of local businesses had sufficient cashflow to last no more than six months,’ the President of the Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce, Jason Bentley, said.

‘Everyone has been relying on things picking up at Easter. Now we’re concerned that, potentially, Easter could be a bit of a wipe-out.

‘I think there’s a lot of emotional fatigue as there is within the community more generally.’

282mm in 24 hours

Water levels in the Byron Bay CBD reached unprecedented levels last Wednesday, after the town recorded 282mm in the space of 24 hours, along with 319mm at Coopers Shoot and 236mm at Myocum.

The event precipitated a major clean-up operation that involved both the community and local authorities. While most businesses in the town have now reopened, patronage has dropped off significantly.

‘The town’s been pretty deserted,’ Mr Bentley said. ‘We’ve had events and conferences cancelled, which people were relying on as we’re building into Easter.’

News that Bluesfest is going ahead has been a significant boost (see page 5), with organisers hoping the festival will bring thousands into the Shire.

However, the influx of tourists for Easter has emerged as a double-edged sword for the region because of the loss of accommodation for those left homeless by the first round of flooding.

At least 60 displaced people have been told by the Government that they must leave their emergency accommodation to make way for Easter tourists.

The Department of Communities and Justice says the only accommodation it could find for these people was in Grafton, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. ‘I just cannot apologise enough for the disruption that this will cause people, and we will do everything we can to minimise it,’ the Deputy Secretary of the Department, Paul Vevers told the ABC.

‘When Easter is over, we will transport people back again, and we will put people back in emergency accommodation, and they will be able to remain there for as long as they need.’

‘All of the bookings were made months ago, and in some cases people booked two years ago.’

Last week’s inundation was felt far and wide.

The M1 highway was cut, as was the road to Ballina on the Broken Head/Coast Road, while Shirley Street and Ewingsdale Road both flooded, rendering Byron temporarily isolated. 

SGB impacted again

Inundation was recorded in South Golden Beach, and the makeshift road to Upper Main Arm was again cut after rain eroded the efforts by Council’s roadwork crews last month.

Council staff said that the amount of rain that fell ‘would ordinarily have caused flooding in Byron Bay, but the already soaked catchment is believed to have exacerbated the problem with no water being absorbed into the ground’.

A statement reads, ‘The intensity of the rain was beyond the capacity of Council’s drainage pipe network’.

‘In addition to this, the level of the ocean is currently higher than normal owing to high tides, so water flowing out of Belongil Creek and Tallow Creek was slowed considerably when the ocean was pushing against it.’

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  1. I can’t see how long ago bookings were made makes enough difference to shift these poor people. Does the Department fear litigation? One also feels for the vacationers of course. The whole thing stinks.

  2. People on holiday are more easily relocated to Grafton, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, than relocating flood victim residents who deserve some continuity and who are relying in many other ways on local friends, family, and community support, and who may still have to get to local employment, and their kids to local schools. Even to get to Blues Fest there is bus’s for the tourists from Grafton, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I note that Holiday letting is still unlawful and prohibited in residential zones, as is squatting (but while the residential nature of squatting is more in line with the lawful use of these properties than their unlawful use as tourist facilities, we know who would, and who wouldn’t be prosecuted, in this era of anti community unlawful tourist facilities operators moving to be imposed on our Shire by the State Govt).


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