Local lifesavers push for beach towers
By DAWN COHEN
LIFEGUARD boss Ron Shepherd has nominated Byron Bay's Main Beach as a prime location for Gold Coast-style surveillance towers.
The peak body for Australian lifeguards yesterday launched a national push for the high-rise lifeguard towers, which operate on the Gold Coast.
The Australian Professional Lifeguard Association wants the elevated structures built on popular swimming beaches in NSW.
It follows a spate of drownings over the holidays, including a 30year-old Korean tourist who drowned at North Avoca and a 26year-old man at Dee Why over the weekend.
Mr Shepherd, lifeguard supervisor for the Far North Coast, said the towers were useful for protecting the guards from the weather and for viewing the surf.
However, he said their usefulness diminished on beaches were the patrols had to be moveable.
"Byron Bay is the only area where the patrolled area is stationary. The towers would be useful for lifeguards there."
The five-metre high towers cost close to $50,000 each, according to Warren Young, chief lifeguard for Gold Coast City Council.
There are 41 on the Gold Coast, about 400 to 800 metres apart.
"One lifeguard can monitor the flags while another is using binoculars to look further along the beach," Mr Young said.
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said raised platforms had been suggested seven years ago, but had been opposed. "My understanding is our surveillance is good and it's an elevated location," she said.
Ballina Shire Council has employed a consultant to conduct a risk assessment of beach patrol needs, said mayor Phil Silver.
It was thumbs down at Evans Head from Wayne Halcrow, of Richmond Valley Council. "Evans is a pretty safe beach," he said.
Vince Kelly, of the Lighthouse Beach Protection Group at Ballina, believes the money would be better spent on paid lifeguards.