Geoff Muir of Ballina on the Ballina breakwall with the lifebuoy he used to help save two swimmers in distress.
Geoff Muir of Ballina on the Ballina breakwall with the lifebuoy he used to help save two swimmers in distress. Patrick Gorbunovs

Red tape holds up lifesaving Angel Rings

BUREAUCRATIC red tape is putting lives at risk on beaches and breakwalls as applications for at least 10 lifesaving devices for the North Coast are collecting dust in a Crown Lands drawer. 

Angel Rings, those bright orange throwable lifebuoys often seen on the side of ships, have been installed at popular angling spots in NSW since 1994 by the Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA).

Since 1994 they've saved 52 lives, including in 2010, when the buoy at North Wall Ballina was used by local Geoffrey Muir to rescue two drowning teens.

"If there was no ring I wouldn't have known what to do," Mr Muir said. "I think every bar that has a bit of unmanageable surf there should be something to assist people who get into trouble." 

The NSW Government officially backed the Angel Ring Project following a 2011 election promise.

Yet applications for the lifesaving buoys in Evans Head, Brunswick Heads and Iluka/Yamba are still in process with the Department of Lands since their submission more than 18 months ago.

In contrast, the Ballina lifebuoys were approved in 2010 in just two months.

Angel Ring co-ordinator Stan Konstantaras from ANSA said he couldn't understand what the hold-up was.

"They save anglers, they save the general public and really I just don't see why we shouldn't have approval pretty much straight away," Mr Konstantaras said.

"We're getting to the point we're really frustrated with the red tape."

"We've got the money, and we've got a proven track record... to hamstring volunteer groups with red tape and bureaucracy is lunacy."

"We're having to go back to community groups and tell them 'the balls out of our hands'. My gut feeling is the Department of Lands don't want public rescue equipment; they want to limit their liability."

A Department of Trade and Investment spokesman was unable to comment on the status of the application.



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