Ballina Jet Boat's in dangerous water

A TRIPPLING of the Ballina Jet Boat's workload has left the volunteer organisation drained of essential funds needed to maintain vital rescue equipment.  

Ballina Jet Boat Treasurer Elton Cummings, who's been a member of the organisation since 1972, said the increased workload this year was solely due to shark patrols.  

"It's all been sharks," he said. "We haven't done a rescue this year."  

"(The result is) we've done a year's work in three months.  

"That puts the pressure on the craft and the 4WD which is 13 years old.  

"The pressure on the craft caused us to bring our future proofing (forward) which has now ended up costing us $55,000 which has depleted most of the donations we got early from the community."  

Mr Cummings said the organisation was seeking secure and ongoing funding from the State Government or the Department of Primary Industries to alleviate the pressure form shark patrols.  

In October, the State Government announced it would spend $16m on a shark strategy.  

The strategy includes aerial shark surveillance, trails of new technologies and community awareness campaigns, but has not allocated any funding for community groups conducting patrols and responding to sightings.  

The Ballina Shire Council has put in place its own Shark Mitigation Strategy which includes a standard emergency management operating procedure and assisting the NSW government's research activities and long term shark strategy.

Mr Cummings said the Far North Coast Surf Life Saving clubs like Lennox Head and Ballina were also struggling with a significant decline in the number of junior volunteers.  

"The junior nippers has been substantially affected by its numbers solely due to sharks, even though the surf clubs have all the systems in place to protect people," he said.  

"If you take Lennox Head, it's a 40% downturn in membership, Ballina, 20% membership down.  

"It means as we go along we're going to have less patrolling members.  

"Sustainable funding will secure better membership, better equipment and better protection for the public."  

Mr Cummings said while local businesses and residents had always been generous with donations, secure government funding was needed to maintain equipment and keep both volunteers and beachgoers safer.  

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