SWIMMERS IN DANGER
By MARY MANN
VANDALS put beach-goers at risk yesterday after they cut a cable on the Coastalwatch safety camera at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach.
Lifesavers fear the vandals were local surfers who didn't want tourists to 'ride their waves'.
They struck on Saturday night, cutting the power cable for the second time in two weeks. It will cost at least $1500 to get it working again.
The damage comes just months after the radio aerials on the Surf Lifesaving Far North Coast Communication and Rescue Centre at Lighthouse Beach were destroyed by vandals, who caused $2500 damage.
Far North Coast Lifesaving director Geoff Horsey said yesterday the cut cables could have been a disaster, because it meant the lifesavers didn't have 'that extra set of eyes' the camera usually provided.
The camera is one of four on the Northern Rivers, and more than 70 in Australia, and takes footage from Lighthouse Beach to South Ballina, which is then displayed live on the web.
Anyone can access the footage to check out the surf from around the country, which is why Mr Horsey believes locals cut the cables.
However, the footage is also used by surf lifesavers to monitor surf conditions, boats and swimmers.
So when Ballina lifesavers leaped into action yesterday afternoon to rescue a board rider who had drifted out from North Wall, the operation was made more dangerous and difficult than it should have been.
"It is a safety issue and I don't think the vandals realise how serious it is," Mr Horsey said.
To cut the camera cable, the vandals had to climb a tree near the communications centre with a pair of wire cutters.
Coastalwatch camera engineer Noel Norton gave up his family day yesterday to try and repair the damage.
"With cyclones predicted in north Queensland, we're expecting heavy seas, so it is important the surf lifesavers have access to the footage," he said.
A replacement camera is expected tomorrow.