Ballina politicians paying for shark surveillance patrols

WITH no State Government money forthcoming for shark surveillance flights, politicians, police and surf lifesaving club members are going beyond the call of duty to keep our beaches safe.

Ballina Mayor Cr David Wright and Ballina MP Tamara Smith have kept private their own donations to Air T&G Helicopter Services for aerial patrols.

But Cr Wright confirmed he and Ms Smith had each picked up the tab for the past two Sunday aerial patrols.

Although Ballina Shire Council has put forward $15,000 a month for a long helicopter patrol six days a week, the politicians made an unpublicised snap decision to ensure public safety.

"Sunday is the most popular beach day. We needed to ensure the public was kept safe," Cr Wright said.

"Without the help of the local aero club and Air T&G Helicopter Services there would be more tragedies."

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Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary for the North Coast Chris Gulaptis said he was in ongoing discussions about risk aversion measures for the management of sharks.

"I have also discussed the opportunity of holding a workshop in Ballina about emerging shark-deterring technologies called for by the Premier and the possibility of trialling a pilot in Ballina," Gulaptis said.

The State Government is reluctant to fund aerial surveillance because it is not the most effective risk deterrent measure.

For example, surfers are often in the water at dawn and dusk when there is no surveillance, and surveillance cannot be undertaken around the clock.

Mr Gulaptis will continue to pursue the matter.

Cr Wright said local services were also stretched dealing with the dire safety concern.

"We have lifesaving club members taking long service leave in order to patrol beaches," he said.

Local police have also thrown extra resources at the problem.

Premier Mike Baird announced in January that the government would spend $100,000 trialling a sonar-based shark detection system at New South Wales beaches.

On Tuesday Ms Smith told parliament the Ballina shark mitigation advisory group was hoping that trials of the non-lethal deterrents promised by the Premier would include a trial in the Ballina region.

"It has been proposed that the shark summit planned for later this year should be held at Ballina," she said.

A Department of Primary Industry spokesperson said a shark deterrent review should be completed by mid-August before the shark summit in September.

Ms Smith also acknowledged the public's response.

"The Ballina Shark Reports Facebook page has attracted more than 4000 likes. The site is aimed at getting news about shark sightings to the community as quickly as possible," she said.


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