Councillor calls for water safety

AFTER three recent drowning incidents in Northern Rivers waterways, Ballina Shire councillor Sharon Cadwallader has called on the Federal Government to take immediate preventative action.

Last week at a Shires Conference she said overseas visitors often risked their lives by swimming in Northern Rivers waterways and beaches.

"Beaches can be dangerous in remote and regional places, particularly if you can't swim. International tourists don't understand because they haven't grown up around waterways. Some can't even doggy paddle," Cr Cadwallader said.

She wanted the Coroner's Office and Surf Life Saving Australia to work with the Federal Government and identify which particular demographics were most at risk.

"By publishing that data, more media attention will be drawn to the issue," Ms Cadwallader said.

Surf Lifesaving Far North Coast's Jimmy Keough said most people who drowned in the region were teenagers and middle-aged.

However North Coast drownings have not been confined to international tourists. Carol and Joseph Sherry of Sydney drowned in front of their three children at South Ballina Beach in 2010.

North Coast rivers and estuaries have also claimed lives.

In January, a Swedish woman had a seizure and drowned in a Riverina Creek.

According to police, her family was not familiar with waterways.

Signage has recently been increased at Northern Rivers beaches and waterways but Cr Cadwallader said interactive swimming and education programs were needed.

"Many (international tourists) are unaware of the significance of patrolled beaches and communication can be impossible if they don't speak or read English," she said.

"It could even be an employment and business opportunity to teach tourists about the waterways."

About 90 people drown at Australian beaches each year.

"We need the Federal Government to recognize this important trend and act," Cr Cadwallader said.

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