Erosion – Byron Bay

Eroded Paradise –Byron Bay Sea Walls Source UNSW, Byron Council, ABC Cyclone Oswald in 2009 is being wrongly blamed for the erosion of one of Australia’s most fashionable seaside addresses. Who will now pay for the remediation? Since settlement, the Byron Bay coastline has had a long history of coastal erosion after storms and as a result suffered major losses to its beach dunes. The properties that lie along Belongil Beach have lost significant amounts of land. Geobags were put in place at the end of 2001 but have been falling apart. The long running policy of the Council has been to let nature take its course and to conduct a “planned retreat” from affected areas as issues like rising sea levels exacerbated erosion. It requires owners to remove houses built after 1988 when the sea is threatening them. Then it started to threaten properties with an average $10 million price tag and the policy has changed despite public protests. One of the owners tried to reclaim his lost land, causing a fight with Council. He spent around $1.4 million on litigation and rebuilding temporary works. According to UNSW the problems at Belongil Beach’s are due to the engineering works erected further east along the coastline. A rock wall and groyne were erected to halt the effects of erosion along the main beach at Byron Bay, and to protect the Memorial Pool, car park, and town centre. UNSW notes “…like many of these structures, this was built without the knowledge of how it might adversely affect the coastal alignment”. 4 Now Byron Shire Council’s plans to build a 105 metre long, $1.2 million, rock wall as part of interim beach access works at Manfred St, Belongil Beach. Three owners were asked to tip in $100,00 each towards part of the cost. The owners are angry at paying $100,000 each for a temporary wall that might have to be removed if State coastal policy changes. Byron Residents’ Group is concerned that money raised will lead to a paid parking scheme to finance the wall. “Beach access could be easily fixed at Manfred St with a wooden or metal staircase as is seen on beaches all over Australia. This would be a cheap option that would not cause the erosion of the beach that rock walls do.” Environmental groups are angry at the lack of an environmental impact statement (EIS) to accompany the works. The works have been approved under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 and have required a Review of Environmental Factors (REF). Initially the Office of Environment and Heritage would not support the construction of a rock wall at Belongil unless there was an approved sand nourishment program in place to offset erosion. However, Environment Minister Rob Stokes over-ruled that decision after resident complaints, so construction can go ahead without the need for a sand transfer scheme. The long-term options include sand pumping from Cosy Corner at Tallow Beach, on the other side of Cape Byron, the solution used for Tweed Heads and Broadwater in Queensland. Mayor Simon Richardson said the existing Belongil Beach will be lost unless sand supplies are replenished. “The Office of Environment and Heritage has basically stated their position that rock walls shouldn’t be built along Belongil unless a system like this is place,” Cr Richardson said. “The idea of taking thousands of metres of sand from that iconic surf beach, over the National Park to Clarkes goes counter to what I think is the prevailing environmental feeling in our community,” “Environmentally they’re incredibly risky without really deep investigation, and of course they’re massively costly.” It is estimated that a system to pump sand from Tallow Beach would cost around $2 million to build with an annual running cost of $300,000 – $500,000. Another option is a series of groynes – rock walls that would run perpendicular to the beach to capture the sand as it moves north, similar in size to the rock wall at Brunswick Heads. Another Byron Shire councillor defended the existing rock-wall plan. Cr Diane Woods said “There’s plenty of beach there with the existing rock walls”. “We’re not doing anything new here. “We’re just completing a rock wall that’s almost completed, only there is about 100 metres of it to do. “You’ve got a home there and you want to protect it, you should be able to take those measures …It’s a no-brainer in my view”. Not sure about that, I do know that once you start altering the coastline with longshore drift obstructions, the erosion and the spending never stops. I notice the foreshore home of a prominent TV celebrity was recently put on the market. Need a cheap house in Byron? The price is $10 million and falling, just like the dunes out the front.