We in Byron, like so many Australians, have a connection to our coast and beaches that touches our very soul. So, it hurts to watch our community suffer.
The week-long gale-force winds, heavy rain and king tides hit our community hard last week. Flooding left residents fleeing to higher ground, schools were closed, power was down for days and roads were cut off.
A huge fig tree destroyed a local family's home - the home of a well-known local who has performed at hundreds of children's birthday parties.
Extreme weather used to occur every few years, now, they occur every few months.
In the past year, Byron has faced floods, drought, bushfire, coastal erosion, and the storm that's just hit us again.
What's worse, we know that it won't be the last time.
Climate change is supercharging our atmosphere and leading to more intense storms and heavy rains.
If we're to learn a lesson from the events of 2020, it's that it is simply not enough to build up sandbag stacked walls, cross our fingers and hope for the storm to pass.
We urgently need to address the root cause of these heightened extreme weather threats - climate change which is being driven by the burning of coal and gas.
As the mayor of Byron Bay, I know our community is doing its bit to tackle climate change.
We have a goal to become Australia's first zero emissions community and are actively working alongside the community and businesses to support their shift to clean energy solutions.
We will soon be home to Australia's first bioenergy facility and a 5MW solar farm.
But we really need meaningful action from the federal government to put us on a path to zero emissions, and we must not accept any new fossil fuel projects in Australia.
We are a surfing community, so an ocean metaphor is apt.
Before us is a clear choice. When faced with some challenging waves, we can either get busy paddling into the surf and gain all the benefits of that ride, or we sit out of the back amongst the foam and watch others do it.
If we want communities to have long-term economic security and resilience, we need our government to put policies in place that actually protect them.
Now is the time for our federal leaders to invest in clean industries and protect communities like mine from future climate shocks.
Cr Simon Richardson is mayor of Byron Shire Council.
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