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Byron Shire
March 1, 2024

West Byron decision just doesn’t add up

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The Land and Environment Court’s decision to move forward with West Byron is a cruel blow for our community and the environment and has imposed impacts and consequences which will be endured for years to come.

My detailed submission presenting traffic and cost impacts to Ewingsdale Road as a consequence of West Byron, and my five-minute summary presentation at the court hearing, unfortunately fell on deaf ears and likely had zero influence on this decision as with all the other well considered and important issues raised by well-meaning community members and leaders such as Cate Coorey.

Recent flooding issues in the Byron town centre has highlighted the sensitivity around the Belongil Creek floodplain and how it functions during these large rain events.

Flooding in Byron Bay 30 March, 2022. Photo Paul Blackmore

Theory v reality

Recent flooding, and previous occurrences, highlight a disconnect between the highly theoretical flood modelling presented by multiple developers in the area and the reality of what really happens in the highly impacted Belongil Creek floodplain.

Flood modelling relies upon a perfect world for drainage and water flow. The recent concerns about West Byron exacerbating the existing floodplain issues in the future is warranted.

Council cannot hope to keep up with the cost of cleaning drainage structures of silt, sediment and grass, so in reality the stormwater can never get away efficiently in these highly modified areas of the floodplain and flooding, unfortunately, becomes a regular occurrence. This lack of drainage system maintenance by Council is directly due to a significant funding gap, which means that the drainage systems cannot possibly operate as designed through theoretical flood modelling presented by developers.

Council awaits millions of dollars in State funding to supposedly fix the current problems but the long-term maintenance issues for the ageing drainage systems and ongoing flooding issues will stay with us forever… it’s an unfortunate fact.

Site R&D’s (locals) approved West Byron development. Image Dailan Pugh.

Doesn’t add up

So why put more West Byron earth fill in an already stressed flood water storage and runoff system? It just does not add up by any measure of sensible development and engineering design logic.

From my 35 years’ experience as a civil engineer, you can make any flood model say just about whatever you want it to say. Especially flood models representing very flat floodplain areas like the Belongil Creek catchment area. The flood modelling presented by developers is very rarely scrutinised, or peer reviewed for accuracy and logic.

In defence of Council, these choked drainage systems are many times more difficult and costly to clean and maintain since the worthy decisions were taken to protect the environment by avoiding the use of harmful herbicides to kill grass and weeds and clean up choked drains.

Developers like those at West Byron should be required to pay more in Section 94 contributions as the unchecked soil and erosion runoff from these subdivisios works during construction contribute significantly to the long-term problems of choked and blocked drainage systems downstream, and consequential flooding impacts. Especially in tricky flat catchment areas like those around Byron which will become increasingly problematic and flood prone with thousands of tonnes of earth fill being dumped in the floodplain by the West Byron developers.

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  1. Lefties live in loony land.
    Complain constantly about the lack of affordable housing, and fight tooth and nail to stop any more houses being built

    • There is a major difference between trying to have proposed developments that may be flood proofed and suited to purpose and allowing totally unsuitable developments in areas demonstrably flood prone . Loony land indeed .

    • Sparkles, you miss the point.
      There are more appropriate locations to develop and build housing in the shire be it affordable or non affordable. So why build in West Byron. Take the time to read the detailed submissions from the community and better still listen to the court hearing to listen to the personal submissions to the court. Unfortunately poor planning decisions were made some time ago which highlighted the area as suitable for development and the rest is history unfortunately…..for the environment and the community.

  2. How many more floods and bushfires before we stop building on floodplains and building wooden houses in Eucalyptus forests ?….
    the great metaphysical mystery of our times.

    • Agreed , but to that I add , how long before the building industry stops convincing people to build on concrete slabs on the ground . Absolutely nuts to continue this practice which has but one advantage over raised floors …. It’s quick and suits the builder .


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