Ballina action against drownings

A spate of tourist drownings on Far North Coast beaches this summer has spurred Ballina Shire Council into action to try and prevent further similar mishaps.

Councillors last week unanimously backed a move by Lennox Head-based Cr Alan Rich for Mayor Phil Silver to broker a meeting as soon as possible with the mayors of Byron Bay and Richmond Valley as well as Tweed shire representatives to see what role local government could play in developing a surf safety program.

A report was also requested for next months council meeting to see how Ballina S)hire could be pro-active in preventing further beach tragedies, especially among tourists.

Cr Rich earlier asked if Council had any requirement for surfboard hirers to notify overseas visitors of the dangers of local surf, given that a large proportion of the summer drownings involved tourists.

Acting general manager Paul Hickey said there was no such requirement with private operators but if a surf school operated under a Council licence, conditions to spell that out could be attached to that permit.

Cr David Wright said people needed to be advised about the danger of surf rips and how to identify them while Cr Sharon Cadwallader suggested Council could play a part in surf safety with a campaign similar to the water-wise campaign.

Cr Peter Moore said strong local leadership was needed to improve surf safety.

This is truly an opportunity for us to take it forward if you save one life because we developed a signage policy or the like, then that is one life saved, he said.

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