A recent protest about plans for eco barriers at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.
A recent protest about plans for eco barriers at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina. Graham Broadhead

Barrier is 'wrong technology on wrong beach', say surfers

UPDATE, 3.15pm: A BALLINA surfer and the spokesman of a group who oppose the Lighthouse Beach barrier has disputed claims the planned shark barrier is safe from entanglement.

Following last night's shark forum in Lennox Head Mark Hernage approached DPI staff and showed them he could drag a whole body through one of the nylon clips used for the barrier.

Mr Hernage, who weighs 75kg, said that meant a younger surfer could easily get their arms, shoulders or waist caught in the device.

He explained that being out in swells, rips, and currents could be a deadly impediment to a surfer avoiding or extricating themselves from the barrier.

He said it was a phenomenon people who didn't have surf experience would not understand, but he compared it to the dangers of white water rafting.

Surfers had on rare occasions drowned after getting their leg rope tangled in rocks because the force of water prevented them from removing the rope.

Mr Hernage explained that the the rips and swells off Lighthouse Beach were severe, and younger surfers could easily get into trouble, making the barrier yet another hazard to be avoided.

"It's more the fact you get pinned against it, and the force of the water keeping you there is going to drown you," he said.

Mr Hernage said the process over the installation of the barrier was "frustrating" and surfers' voices were not being heard.

He said the DPI's risk assessment report should weigh up the risks of a shark attack compared with a drowning or injury from the barrier.

"It seems they listen to the clubbies… but not the surfers. We don't have those members in uniform… and we're not an organisation," he said.

But he argued surfers above all were the ones who used that patch of the ocean the most, with Lighthouse Beach prized for its habit of picking up all the available swell.

"We don't want the barrier there at all because it's a hazard and a risk," he said.

"It's the wrong technology on the wrong beach, and I think everyone knows that apart from the DPI."

"When it all comes crashing in on the next swell, who is going to pick up the pieces?"


ORIGINAL STORY: THE DESIGNER of the shark barrier planned for Lighthouse Beach has dismissed concerns surfers might get "tangled" in the barrier and injure themselves.

Craig Moss from Perth-based company Eco Shark Barrier was said the barrier was a rigid nylon barrier, not a net.

"There's nothing to get your body stuck in," Mr Moss said.

"Because it's a rigid nylon barrier which doesn't tangle, so how you could get tangled in it?"

Mr Moss said the gaps between each nylon strut were wide enough to put your arm or leg through, and pull straight out.

Responding to concerns that surfers would be put at risk by the barrier, Mr Moss said in his observation 90% of surfers were on the inside of the line of the planned barrier when Lighthouse Beach was being surfed.

"It's a tricky one trying to keep everyone happy. (But) I'm pretty sure that given the chance there will be a lot of surfers that are happy."

To give his invention the best chance of withstanding the big swells which pound the exposed Lighthouse Beach from time to time, Mr Moss has also doubled the strength of it from his original design.

The prototype barrier at Perth's Coogee Beach had a 200kg breaking strain on each nylon clip, which strengthens again once the matrix of clips are connected.

The Lighthouse Barrier has a 300kg breaking strain on each clip.

In addition, Mr Moss has added alternating nylon and steel cables every 30cm - each with a 700kg breaking strains.

"By doing all the extra work in strengthening the barrier, I feel very confident it won't break," he said.

"I've strengthened it to the most extreme conditions I can imagine."

"You can be assured I'm doing everything I can to make sure it works."

The project to build the Lighthouse Beach barrier is expected to recommence after the school holidays, at the earliest from July 19.

Mr Moss said he had received advice that this period might give the best combination of clean surface conditions and hopefully smaller swells.

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