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Renewed pleas for extra lifeguards

Police and ambulance officers at the scene of Tuesday afternoon’s double drowning of a husband and wife at South Ballina Beach. Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter
Police and ambulance officers at the scene of Tuesday afternoon’s double drowning of a husband and wife at South Ballina Beach. Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter

BALLINA Shire Council and Surf Life Saving NSW will review the need for lifeguards at South Ballina Beach after a husband and wife drowned there on Tuesday evening, leaving their three children orphaned.

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver yesterday defended the council’s allocation of surf lifesaving patrols on the beach – the only patrol was based at the south wall over the Christmas/New Year period – saying its allocations were based on recommendations from Surf Life Saving NSW.

He also defended a lack of signs at entrance points near the popular South Ballina Beach Holiday Park, warning tourists the beach was not patrolled and could have dangerous rips, saying the NSW Department of Lands was responsible for beachaccess points and signs south of the Richmond.

However, he said the issue of signs was ‘something that council should discuss’ with the department.

Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman Scott McCartney also said the level of patrols needed at the beach would need to be re-evaluated, but warned the ability to patrol the beach would depend on the resources the council could invest in them.

He said more heavily used beaches, such as Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach, wouldremain a higher priority for surf patrols.

Mr McCartney said tourists staying at the holiday park should avoid swimming at the unpatrolled South Ballina Beach and instead make the trip over the river to swimbetween the flags at Lighthouse Beach.

“Visitors from the city are advised only to swim in pat-rolled areas,” he said.

“It’s a 10-minute drive north to Lighthouse Beach and there you have a patrolled beachseven months of the year, but it’s really an individual choice.

“Even today,” he said, gesturing towards the apparently gentle swell and calmwaters, “you have a big gutter there and a rip there, butunless they have the knowledge most people will think it looks safe and good.

“It just takes a little tide change and that rip will start hammering.”

The issue of lifeguards is a thorny one at South Ballina. Holiday park co-owner and prominent Ewingsdale resident Rikki Grinberg said residents had long argued the beach needed patrols.

Former Ballina councillor and Empire Vale resident Margaret Howes said she and another former councillor, Sue Dakin, had battled in vain to get lifeguards on to the beach.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said the holiday park had been growing increasingly popular, which meant more tourists on the potentially dangerous beach and more need for lifeguards and warning signs.

Cr Silver said tourist ven-ues needed to take a moreactive role in educating tourists about the dangers ofunpatrolled beaches.

Ms Grinberg said that was not always practical, noting that it was usually one person who booked a family into the holiday park and ‘it’s very hard to speak to every member of a group’.

How to help

LISMORE police have set up a fund through Hannah’s Foundation.

Donations of more than $2 are tax deductible and can be made through any Westpac branch to Hannah’s Foundation, Sherry Orphans Family Appeal, BSB: 034-002, Account no: 333453.

Go to www.hannahsfoundation.org.au for more details.

SHOULD LIFEGUARDS PATROL SOUTH BALLINA BEACH?




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