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Byron Shire
August 14, 2022

Madness from fear

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As said by a councillor in the Byron Shire Council (BSC) debate, as possibly the worse decision this Council could make, it fell to a casting vote by the mayor to give approval to an underground car park in Brunswick Heads. 

The fact this decision, in all probability, will increase flooding levels in Veteran’s Lane was dismissed in fear of litigation by the applicant if the development application (DA) was refused.

A rescission motion has been lodged to bring the DA back to Council in August. 

The developer is trying to exploit an alleged clerical error in the DCP by claiming it allows for excavated basement car parking in the B4 zone. His argument could be easily debunked by any competent reader. It certainly doesn’t need litigation to do so.

The DA will allow the land fronted by Mullumbimbi, Tweed Street and Veteran’s Lane, an area measuring 1,011sqm to be excavated to a depth of 3m for 21 car parking spaces. Entry to this private car parking basement will be via the narrow two-way traffick Veteran’s Lane.

The site has a very high water table with natural groundwater inflow of 1,900,000 litres/week equivalent to nearly two containers measuring 10m x 10m x 10m. This figure was assessed in 2021 in a relatively drier month of the year and before the drought was officially declared as over.

The existing groundwater at the site will be displaced. Annexure to the DA acknowledges that post-construction the basement will act as a barrier and will alter the natural flow regime. The groundwater level can rise.

The applicant has acknowledged a high connectivity between the water table and surface runoff. Such a connection leads to flooding as groundwater reaches surface levels in rainfall events. Veteran’s Lane is known to flood badly because of this. The developer’s response to the issue is to install a floodgate at the entry to the car park basement. However, there is no consideration about the resulting higher flooding levels on properties adjoining the laneway as a consequence of this development.

The developer has stated that part of the surface water will be discharged into Council’s manholes on Tweed Street. These discharge points have yet to be sited requiring digging into the integrity of the former Pacific Highway, built to a standard that Council could never afford, to accommodate the approval.

The developer is encouraged to be clever to move the DA forward. This can be done by removing the basement car park, with its sophisticated floodgate and lift; avoid the foreseeable problems with traffic movements; keeping the rainwater tanks, using the current discharge system for surface water and pay parking contributions to Council.

Patricia Warren, Brunswick Heads

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