SURF SAFETY: Protest organiser Mark Hernage has warned the installation of a shark barrier at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach will pose a serious safety risk to surfers.
SURF SAFETY: Protest organiser Mark Hernage has warned the installation of a shark barrier at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach will pose a serious safety risk to surfers. Leah White

Shark barrier more dangerous than sharks

A SHARK barrier that protects surfers from attacks but puts them at high risk of entanglement and drowning is doing the community more harm than good, local surfers have said.

About 100 north coast surfers, fishermen and residents turned out for the second shark barrier protest at Ballina's North Wall today.

Installation of the controversial barrier could begin as early as this week.

Protest organiser Mark Hernage said the vast majority of local surfers were against the barrier but had been left out of key consultations.

"I know myself, I fit through it… and if I can fit through it, what about a small child who might fit through with a body board and an arm rope?" he said.

"They're going to get caught in it and potentially drown.

 

"The DPI can't say whether the barrier poses a risk greater than the sharks themselves.

"And if they can't answer that question, they haven't even done a proper risk assessment."

Mr Hernage said local surfers had attempted to make their concerns heard by the premiere and the DPI, but both seemed "more interested in trialling the technology".

"During my phone conversation with the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, his response to the concerns I raised over the risk of this barrier to surfers was to 'surf somewhere else'," he said.

"So Mr Baird, you are advising that those who are most at risk of being attacked should go surf somewhere else, where the risk of an attack remains unchanged.

"How are you going to measure the success of the barrier if there is no one in the water."

 

Mr Hernage said the barrier would make one of the north coast's best breaks unsurfable.

In a DPI fact sheet, the organisation said it had worked with over 20 groups and organisations including Ballina Shire Council, Surf Life Saving and local businesses to determine the best locations to trial the barriers.

As well as Lighthouse Beach, a barrier will also be trialled at Lennox Head, adjacent to the Surf Life Saving Club.

Both trials are set to last up to three years, during which time DPI says the barriers will be monitored, reviewed and maintained.

Previously, the designer behind the barrier, Perth-based Craig Moss, has said surfers would not be able to get tangled in the "rigid" structure and in his observation, 90% of surfers were on the inside line of the planned barrier.



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