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Byron Shire
November 30, 2022

Ongoing large Wategos house builds could cause drainage issues

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Wategos is named after WWI veteran, Murray (Mick) Watego.
His family of 12 farmed the area until the 1950s. Photo www.trip.com

The Wategos Beach mansion development that breached Byron’s height limit by nearly 10 per cent was just one example of the development issues occurring in the famous suburb, Byron Council has heard.

The Echo reported last week that the owners of two neighbouring multi-million-dollar homes at 44 Brownell Drive, illegally added an entertainment and amenities room to the roof top pool area of the second dwelling, effectively creating a fourth storey.

An attempt to get retrospective approval for the breach was rejected by councillors at last week’s planning meeting, meaning that the Melbourne-based owners may now have to rebuild that part of the structure.

During the public access section of the meeting, Oliver Dunne from the Wategos Beach Protection Association, said that in addition to height breaches, Wategos was facing the challenge of excessive excavation and drainage issues.

Owners at the beachside spot have been carving deep into the steep Wategos hillside to get the maximum possible floor space for their homes, then building nine to 10 metres up to the maximum height level, and also excavating down into the earth to create underground car parking.

44 Brownell Drive, Wategos Beach, Byron Bay.

Minimal dust control from constant drilling

‘We’ve had thousands of truck movements over a period of two years, we’ve had rock drilling going on 12 hours a day and dust control that’s minimal in many ways,’ said Mr Dunne, who is a former mayor of the Byron Shire.

‘We’ve got developments that you would normally see in the centre of the Sydney CBD happening in a small suburb.

‘These are very significant buildings by any measure, and the costs of them are astronomical. The impacts on the surrounding area during construction are very significant.’

The size of the houses and the major excavation work involved in building them was also requiring elaborate drainage systems, Mr Dunne said. 

‘Across the back of Wategos is a group of springs and intermittent watercourses,’ Mr Dunne said. 

‘You’re depending on the owners to ensure that every part of the drainage system, a large-scale drainage system to get the water from down the back to the front, is maintained and tapped. 

‘There’s lots of things can go wrong. But basically you’re altering the watercourses around Wategos dramatically and that does have impact and you can see that.’

Earlier, the meeting heard from Dwayne Roberts of Ardill, Payne and Partners, the planning company hired by the owners of 44 Brownell Drive to obtain retrospective permission for the height breach.

44 Brownell Drive, Wategos Beach, Byron Bay elevations.

Mr Roberts told the meeting that he did not believe the unapproved addition to the second house represented a dramatic change to the building’s bulk and scale. 

He said that the owners had already been given permission to build above the height limit and the additional work had only increased the overall height by 250mm.

He did not comment on the fact that the building was now nearly 10 per cent above the nine metre height limit for Byron Bay.

‘The husband and wife are in Melbourne and they were unable to travel up here during COVID restrictions,’ Mr Roberts said by way of explanation for the height breach.

Relatively distraught millionaires

‘They travelled up here earlier this year and walked in and said, “Why is there a bathroom [on top of the second house] when there was a plant room approved?”

‘The explanation I got was that the builders were provided with the wrong plans for the height of structure two.’

‘They [the owners] were relatively distraught in terms of that was approved as a plant room because now we’ve gotta go back and seek approval from Council for that area.’

Ardill, Payne and Partners declined to comment on the development at 44 Brownell Drive when contacted by The Echo.

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  1. I heard someone say, “ Money talks”. It’s unfortunate that developers and newcomers to the area have this mindset. We long term residents moved here because money has never ‘talked’ to us. We came to get away from the rat race. Pity the rats are moving up here.

    • Well said Pauline.
      These people appear not to appreciate beauty when it’s in front of them, then they go about destroying it with their impoverished mind-set. A travesty, repeated over and over, thanks to council’s allowance of the PCA (private certifying authority) option.
      PCA’s are a cheap license to completely destroy the fabric of our precious environment. It’s egoistic stupidity with highly distressing results.


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