A DISPUTE between Island Quarry (IQ) Inc and Byron Council may have delayed the building of a fence around the site where Victorian tourist Brendan Vickery died at the weekend.
IQ Reserve Trust president Shane Rennie said he first applied to Crown Lands for funding to build a fence around the site two years ago.
But he says delays from the council meant that costs went up and he had to re-apply for further funding.
Victorian man Brendan Vickery, 20, disappeared under the water at the quarry while swimming with friends on Sunday. Mr Vickery's death is the latest and most serious in a long string of incidents at the site where, over the past few years, two people have broken their backs, another was nearly paralysed and a fourth came close to drowning.
OPINION: Island Quarry fence is long overdue
Mr Rennie said the council originally wanted pool fencing around the "general activity area", but he couldn't get any clarification from the council exactly where that was.
In mid-December there was an emergency meeting on the site to deal with a range of issues, including the fencing.
Mr Rennie says the council agreed that 1800mm of chain cyclone wire fencing could be used along the top of the quarry and pool fencing would be required along the bottom next to the water.
"It certainly could have got up quicker," he said.
Mr Rennie had asked the contractors to begin work "as soon as possible" after their Christmas break. They are now due to start putting the fence up tomorrow or Monday.
Mr Rennie said it was "extremely unfortunate" what occurred on the weekend, but said unless there was "a 40-foot-high greased wall to keep people out", they continued to ignore signage.
"There are signs that say 'restricted area', 'no unauthorised entry', 'keep out' right next to where people jump ... which we replace whenever it is removed, but people still walk past," he said.
Byron Mayor Simon Richardson said he didn't want to get into "a blame game" about who was responsible for the delay in getting a fence up around the perimeter of the water hole.
"For 18 years there has been delays and inaction getting this site complying and open to the public," he said. "I have sat and dreamed of great things at that site which are yet to be fully realised.
"(In this case) the proponent (IQ Inc) was given a direction and it is up to them to comply.
"I have been a great supporter of the IQ and recently used my casting vote to support Mr Rennie in a request relating to rates to help him and the IQ crew get it together.
What is Island Quarry?
THE Island Quarry is an area of eight acres of Crown land that was abandoned as a bluestone quarry in 1980.
In 1989 the New South Wales Government identified "tourism and recreation" as its preferred usage for the site. In 1995 IQ Inc applied to regenerate the land and turn it into a community facility.
From 1995 until 2000 it was used as an event site for several festivals, band nights, film screenings and private functions. However, Mr Rennie said changes to laws stopped them running "members only" events, but the long-term vision is still to create "a community arts environment park and events venue" with a capacity of 500-1000.
The main activities at the Island Quarry since 2001 have been as a training and regeneration facility for people doing work-for-the-dole and other community programs.
OPINION: Fence at Island Quarry is long overdue
THE prospect of a fence going up around the dangerous quarry swimming hole at Byron Bay is a good result from a bad situation.
Victorian man Brendan Vickery drowned at the site after swimming with friends on Sunday.
He reported he felt "weak" before he disappeared. Police didn't recover his body from the deep swimming hole until Monday.
This tragedy hasn't hastened the decision to put up the fence around the quarry. Apparently it has been in the pipeline for some time and work is due to start shortly.
But it's not before time as this latest drowning really put the danger of this spot in sharper focus.
While the quarry used to be a place for locals only it has been put on several backpacker websites as a place to visit.
So the number of people going there has been increasing.
There have been a string of incidents and near misses there over the years including a couple of cases of people breaking their backs. It's long overdue that this spot be closed off to swimmers.
The number of accidents and Sunday's fatality merely underscores how dangerous it is.
But it is not the only quarry in our region and the potential fencing of some of the others needs to be looked at.
While a fence won't in itself stop the most foolhardy from going for a swim it is certainly a step in the right direction.
- David Kirkpatrick
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