Minister for School Education Peter Garrett visited Leichhardt State School on Wednesday.
Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Minister for School Education Peter Garrett visited Leichhardt State School on Wednesday. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times Rob Williams

Peter Garrett's opinion on shark netting might surprise you

MUSICIAN, former politician and conservationist Peter Garrett says shark nets should be trialled at Northern Rivers' beaches.

But he said measures should be taken to minimise the impact on local marine wildlife.

Although Garrett said he was not convinced that netting in low-population areas such as the North Coast is a good idea, he was open to trial it.

"I don't think (netting) is necessarily the right idea but I think it's worth trialling, so long as there are measures taken to think about updating the way in which you don't have a loss of life of other fish species coming up against the nets," he said.

"We get a lot of people coming to the water in Australia, but I am really conscious of the damage that has been done to shark populations over time, and how threatened they were."

Asked about any measures to available to protect marine wildlife during a future netting trial, Garret said the solution must come from the netting itself.

"The only thing that I have seen is if you have some sort of sound emanation operation from the netting itself," he said.

"Over time, depending of what the netting regime was, the expectation will be that some creatures at least will develop a familiarity with netting."

Garret compared the situation with similar discussion in the Northern Territory to protect the population against crocodile attacks.

"I am opposed to killing any wildlife in any way, especially Australian endemic species, but it's frustrating when people don't observe warning signs and put themselves at risk with crocodiles.

"You need to have some areas, particularly in coastal communities, which are made safe from predators, and that is the balance that takes place when humans and animals find themselves in the same place," he said.

Considering his environmental and conservation credentials, Garrett is aware that his opinion in this matter will not please everyone, particularly in the Northern Rivers.

"Of course I am, I am very mindful of that, but you have some obligations to ensure public safety and it is impossible to have an expectation that people won't swim or surf at all.

"Then you can trial things and see if they work or not. If they get unacceptable loses of life, animals harmed or damage done unnecessarily then you need to look up other measures, and that could include the way people spend their time surfing," he said.

Garrett said similar nets in Sydney's beaches have been effective.

"We've had virtually zero shark attack and certainly no fatalities, I can't remember for how long, and the interference with free passage of, whether is dolphins or large fish, sharks and others in the city has been considerable, and that's the trade off that you get when you place a value on people having access to the water and wanting them not to be attacked or harmed."

Garret said he won't be surfing during his upcoming visit to the Northern Rivers.

"But not because of sharks, only because I don't think I'll have the time," he explained.

The Midnight Oil frontman, former Labor minister and former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation is coming to Lismore for an In Conversation event as part of Norpa's Big Think series.

A member of the Order of Australia for contributions to the music industry and environment, and an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (France), in 2010 Garrett received the Leaders for a Living Planet award from WWF Australia & International.



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