Buck passing on fatal beach
THE future of surf patrols at notorious South Ballina Beach looks bleak after Ballina Shire Council voted unanimously to end patrols after this summer.
The cut to service is part of measures designed to save the council $23,000 next year.
Ballina Shire Council general manager Paul Hickey said National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Primary Industries were responsible for South Ballina Beach.
"We will now be asking these agencies to take responsibility for patrolling South Ballina Beach," he said.
Parks and Wildlife Service community relations ranger Lisa Walker said the council had yet to officially notify the service of the change.
"It's too early to say what the solution may be but the NPWS will consider providing patrols," she said.
South Ballina beach became infamous after the tragic drowning of Sydney couple Joseph and Carole Sherry there in January 2010 when they swam out to help their two youngest children, who had been caught in a rip.
The children were able to make their way back to shore but both Mr and Mrs Sherry died in the rough conditions.
Both parents were later recommended for bravery medals by Coroner Jeff Linden as part of his findings, handed down at the conclusion of the coronial inquest in September 2010.
Their three children - Monique, Elise and Nicholas - now live with their grandmother.
Mr Hickey said the beach's isolation put lifesavers at risk.
"An Aquatic Risk Safety audit completed for council by the Surf Life Saving NSW highlighted the hazardous nature of this location, its low usage and isolation from services which could also put lifesavers at risk," he said.
"We recognise that every life is precious but need to ensure that life savers who patrol this area are adequately resourced."
Mr Hickey said the council was focusing on heavily-used areas such as Lennox Head, Lighthouse Beach and Sharpes Beach which had attendance numbers in the tens of thousands.
Only 542 people were believed to have swum at South Ballina Beach during last year's lifesaving season.
Mr Hickey said the council would maintain its service for this Christmas/New Year season and would increase its patrols in areas the council controlled.
He also hinted the council could revisit the issue in 2012/13 if Parks and Wildlife or the Department of Primary Industry failed to provide patrols.