The concept of restrictions on coastal development has been around for decades and is not a new planning strategy for Byron Shire, the coun said today.

According to Mayor Jan Barham, the recent storm event has raised community concerns over what is planned retreat and how it applies to Byron Shire.

“Coastal councils around Australia are facing increasing pressures in tackling coastal erosion from storm events and as far back as the 1960s the NSW Public Works Department (PWD) identified the need for development restrictions in coastal areas at risk from storm events and erosion,” Mayor Barham said.

“This issue will only get more critical under rising sea levels.

“Coastal erosion within the Shire has been considered by the NSW State Government, independent experts and Council for decades. 

“A history of cyclones and storms for this area of the coast cannot be overlooked and now we must also consider the very real impacts of climate change.”

In 1978, planned retreat was documented as a possible management strategy by PWD in the Byron to Hastings Point Erosion Study and included in the State Government’s Coastline Planning Manual in 1988.

Byron Shire Council adopted the Byron Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan (DCP) in 1988. The DCP included Part J for development on Coastal Lands. 

The planning document identified erosion precincts and defined the limits for development in response to erosion threat within those areas.

A public hearing was held prior to the adoption of the 1988 planning instruments.

“Community members and scientists had the opportunity to address the public hearing and their submissions were taken into consideration prior to the adoption of the planning instruments,” Mayor Barham said.

At the time of the adoption of planned retreat, Byron Shire Council was under planning administration from the NSW State Government.

“We have inherited a planning tool from the NSW State Government and Council has consistently reviewed the strategy in light of further expert reports and studies,” Mayor Barham said.

“Council has considered all options that are available to address coastal erosion.

“In recent years council has recommitted to planned retreat as other options failed to address the wide range of issues that council must consider when addressing coastal hazards.

“As recently as 2006, Council unanimously voted to accept the highly regarded Cape Byron Sand Lobe scoping study and consequently resolved to abandon any further investigation into sand nourishment.”

The Cape Byron Sand Lobe study revealed the complexity of accessing the sand deposit for beach nourishment to support the option of engineering works. 

“The purpose of the study was to examine the potential of the extraction of the sand deposits which sits in over 20 metres of water off Cape Byron,” Mayor Barham said.

A sand dredge from Denmark would have been required to access the deep deposit as no suitable dredge existed in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The necessary works would have involved many months of disruption with a dredge in the bay and bulldozers on the beaches just to complete the initial nourishment; plus there would be no guarantee that the sand would not wash away in the next storm event,” Mayor Barham said.

“Additional works would involve further stabilisation structures for the entire Belongil Spit which would need to be maintained into the future.

“Furthermore, the area is a Marine Park and the extraction of  millions of cubic metres of sand could result in a large cost to the environment and there was also the uncertainty of approval being granted by the State Government for the work in a protected area.

“After considering various options in the Coastline Management Study (WBM 2004) and the complexities revealed in the Sand Lobe Scoping Study (Pat Brit 2006), Byron Shire Council resolved to abandon any further investigation into sand nourishment and reconfirmed their commitment to planned retreat for parts of the Byron Shire coastline.

“For years we have advised that certain coastal areas of the Shire have a degree of risk from coastal erosion.

“In the Belongil area we are also dealing with a narrow sand spit. We have Belongil Creek on one side and the ocean on the other.

“Byron Shire Council places restrictions on consents to new developments and additions to existing structures. Conditions of approval also identify the need for structures to be demountable and the trigger for removal or demolition is identified.

“Information on coastal hazards is also placed on Section 149 Certificates to inform prospective buyers of restrictions.

“People who buy into planned retreat areas are informed of the restrictions for development. They purchase with knowledge of the risk.

“Byron Shire Council is currently completing a draft Coastal Zone Management Plan which addresses the Byron Shire coastal zone from the Tweed-Byron Shire border to the Byron-Ballina Shire in the south.

“A report to Council will be presented on 2 July and will recommend that the draft Coastline Management Plan goes out on exhibition.

“We encourage the community to review the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan and provide feedback to Council.”