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August 20, 2022

Attempt to manage Byron’s fragile coastline impeded by State Government, report finds

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Insufficient funding and guidance from the State Government is inhibiting Byron Council’s attempt to effectively manage its famous but fragile coastline, a Council report has revealed.

The report, which came before the Coastal and ICOLL Advisory Committee last week, was an update on the Council’s preparation of Coastal Management Programs (CMPs).

Statutorily required and partially funded by the State Government, these programs set out the long-term plan to balance the environmental, cultural and economic needs of the coastal zone and adapt to emerging issues such as population growth and climate change.

With the Byron coastline suffering from serious erosion and recession issues in recent years, having an effective and coordinated strategy for maintenance and planning is essential.

‘For a small coastal council we have a large coastline with high coastal risks to manage,’ the authors of the report said.

‘A CMP is necessary to effectively assess and prioritise risks and manage current and emerging issues … and to allow access to the Coast and Estuary grant funding for implementation of key actions.’

However, the authors of the staff report said that the attempt to do this had been cruelled by a lack of support from the State Government itself, in particular the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE).

Staff said there was a need for more guidance, including information on how to include broader catchment issues and effectively integrate ‘catchment, coast and marine policy and governance’.

There was also insufficient ongoing funding for coastal management, and for proper engagement and collaboration with the traditional custodians of the land, the Arakwal People of the Bundjalung Nation.

There was also a lack of understanding among different government agencies of their role in the process, something that was exacerbated by insufficient staff resources being allocated to the task.

As a consequence of these and other issues, Council has only progressed through one stage of the five-stage process involved in preparing the Coastal Management Programs.

And it appears they are not alone.

‘Byron Shire Council is one of 52 councils preparing CMPs for their coastal zones,’ the authors of the report stated.

‘In total, there are 50-plus CMPs currently being prepared across the NSW coastline with only three certified to date.’

This, they said, was part of a longer-term challenge faced by the Council in its attempts to effectively care for the Shire’s coastline.

‘Despite Council’s coastal hazard management planning approach, no long-term coastal management plan has been approved or certified by the Minister, notwithstanding several attempts for the Shire including four attempts to be implemented by Council for the Byron Bay Embayment following the NSW Government’s designation of Belongil Beach as a coastal erosion hotspot.’

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  1. So the NSW Government has designated Belongil Beach as a coastal erosion hotspot yet no NSW Coastal Protection Management Plan has been forthcoming. This does pave the way for inappropriate DEVELOPMENT that we see manifesting, such as the 9 houses approved for development at Elements Resort. This development will be wedged between the ocean and Belongil Estuary ; both waterways subject to the forces of Climate Change flooding. Furthermore, given the current state of flooding in the NSW State one wonders whether the Land and Environment Court would approve such structures? The Risk to life is enormous.


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