NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair
NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair DAN HIMBRECHTS

Minister to visit Ballina to announce new shark strategy

PRIMARY Industries Minister Niall Blair will travel to Ballina today in the wake of Monday's shark attack, as the huge cost of the failed shark barriers on the North Coast are called into question.

The ABC has reported that Mr Blair will announce a new three-month trial of shark-spotting drones, starting from tomorrow.

The trial is reported to take place at Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head and will use private contracters who are experienced, CASA-certified pilots to fly the drones every Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings.

An air horn or siren will be used to signal if sharks are spotted close to people.

It is reported that Ballina mayor David Wright had said that all of the extra shark mitigation measures he had been pleading for since Christmas had materialised in 12 hours after the latest shark attack.

He said while he was grateful for the extra measures, they should be permanent.

"As soon as I speak to the Minister I'll say 'look, thank you for what you've done but now we need to continue because people are going to have expectations that if you can do it for this holiday, it's going to continue," Cr Wright told the ABC.

$2.6 million failed project

Meanwhile, it has been revealed this morning that the NSW Government signed contracts worth more than $2.6 million for shark barriers that were never installed, a day after a teenaged surfer survived a shark attack at Ballina.

One of the barriers was due to be installed at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach where 17-year-old surfer Cooper Allen was attacked on Monday.

It was worth $1.3 million, but installation was scrapped in August due to the weather and tidal conditions.

The teenager is still recovering in Lismore Base Hospital following the attack in which he was bitten on the upper-thigh.

The second North Coast shark barrier, which was to be located at Lennox Head was abandoned after the design was deemed inappropriate for the beach.

This barrier was valued at $1.33 million.

The contracts, with suppliers Eco Shark Barrier and Global Marine Enclosures, state they will provide "design, construction, transportation, installation, maintenance and removal" of the shark barriers, the ABC have reported.

Opposition primary industries spokesman Mick Veitch has asked Minister Blair to explain.

"The people of NSW need to know exactly how much has been spent to date on the failed eco-barriers," Mr Veitch said.

"More importantly, were there exit fees or breach of contract fees because of the failure?"

Mr Veitch said the Government should have known the eco-barriers were an unsuitable solution.

"If they'd spoken to the locals, they'd know there was a great risk with these eco-barriers.

"(It's) because of the tidal action of that part of the coastline and the waves."



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