Collapse of the riverbank at Mylestom

Trevor Williams has a strong emotional attachment to a stretch of the Bellinger River at Mylestom.

While still unborn, he was part of the work involved in building the family boathouse there in 1950.

The story he’s been told is that his grandfather and his uncle towed the foundation logs down the river with his mother, six months pregnant, riding on top to keep the logs separated.

Trevor and his siblings grew up in Queensland but spent all their holidays in Mylestom, and when he retired 17 years ago, this is where he and his wife came to live.

The beloved boathouse was torn down in 1968 and the spot is now marked by a bench with a plaque dedicated to his family – his uncle Jack Hochkins, his mother Bev, and his grandparents Alex and Vi.

But sitting on that seat, the gorgeous view is rudely interrupted by poorly maintained, badly eroded sections of the riverbank’s retaining wall, three of them enclosed with orange safety mesh.

“That area has been taped off four or five times,” Trevor said, pointing to a spot to the left of his family bench. “And the tape’s just rotted away and been replaced.”

“And the high wall section further up was done from 1965 to 1968, and it was put in with secondhand logs. And all the logs have just rotted and they’re falling away out of the wall.”

For the last four years he and others in the North Beach Community Alliance have been campaigning to get the bank repaired on a stretch of the Bellinger River extending from outside the Mylestom Hall up to the Tidal Pool.

As well as being unsightly, Trevor regards the crumbling retaining wall as a safety hazard and in particular, a danger to the children who frequent the area in large numbers during school holidays.

“The Putt Bennett Fishing Festival in January has 650 competitors, and you come down here some days and you’ve got kids every spot you look at,” he said. “These areas are highly utilised because they’re easy access for people to fish.”

The riverbank is managed by the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust, who are supposed to fund council to undertake works.

But Trevor’s emails and phone calls over the years have been met with promises that remain unfulfilled and for the last 18 months, no response at all.

He’s also chivied Bellingen Shire Council to urge Crown Lands to act, and they have done so repeatedly. 

“We’re not blaming council,” Trevor said. “Council’s problem is they’ve got to get the funding from Crown Lands. But it’s up to council to approach them. We shouldn’t have to do it.”

Trevor’s latest email prodding council about the state of the riverbank, dated August 10, received a response on August 22.

“This has been referred to Sandy Grieves, Bellinger Heads State Park.”

It’s essentially the same response he received two years ago.

Crown Lands was approached for comment and forwarded the inquiry to the Department of Industry, who replied as follows:

“The Department of Industry – Lands and Water supports Council’s interim actions to address any public safety concerns. The Department is having ongoing discussions with Bellingen Shire Council regarding responsibilities, risk management, and processes for assessing future work.”

Update:

Bellingen Shire Council have advised that “Upon further advocacy, agreement has now been reached that the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust will commission an assessment report inclusive of costed options in order that the scope of work can be defined and funding options considered.”

Also making news: