Council trio fight to step up Ballina beach patrols

By DAWN COHEN

BALLINA councillors want lifeguards on the beaches during all school holidays, even if the general manager does not see a need.

The controversy has been triggered by the drowning of 18-year-old Matthew Hicks at Shelly Beach last Tuesday, just 20 metres from the shore.

There was no lifeguard on duty because Ballina council funds lifesavers only during the Christmas an Easter school holidays, and volunteers operate solely on weekends.

Last Friday, general manager Stuart McPherson did not believe there was a need for increased lifeguard coverage.

However, councillors Alan Brown, John Felsch and Margaret Howes disagree.

"We must extend our commitment. If it saves lives we have to," said Cr Brown, a former surf lifesaver.

Cr Felsch wants Lismore Council to help foot the bill, and Lismore mayor Merv King is open to discussions.

Which is more than can be said for the State Government. In responding to the drowning, Minister of Tourism and Sport, Sandra Nori, advised us all to swim between the flags.

When told that there were no flags because there was no money for lifeguards, her spokesperson passed the buck back to the volunteers.

"Take that up with the local club," he said.

Meanwhile, Cr Howes has placed on notice a motion asking council staff to provide a full report on issues related to lifeguards.



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