SEND IN THE DRONES
Councillor calls for local action to fill void after finish of shark mitigation trial
A TWEED councillor says the “time for talk is over” when it comes to shark mitigation on our coast.
Councillor Reece Byrnes on Thursday put forward a motion proposing Tweed Shire Council fill a void left by the end of the State Government’s DPI drone program trial and purchase six drones to loan to local surf lifesaving clubs.
Just seven days after the shark mitigation drone trial ended on the Tweed Coast, Tugun man Rob Pedretti was killed by a great white shark while out surfing at Kingscliff earlier this month.
The tragedy rocked the community and Cr Byrnes claims fear has left noticeably fewer people visiting the region’s beaches.
State Member for Tweed Geoff Provest and Cr James Owen have separately contacted NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall advocating for reinstating and expansion of the trial, as well as other shark mitigation measures.
However, there is yet to be a State Government response.
Cr Byrnes’ motion, to be heard at a council meeting in August, includes action points to “freely loan these drones to surf lifesaving clubs within the Tweed Shire, including Fingal,
Salt, Cabarita Beach and Cudgen Surf Life Saving Clubs, for their use in shark mitigation/detection and other general beach and surf safety measures”.
He also proposed the council write to Surf Life Saving NSW seeking to enter into a partnership for a 12month trial of these six drones across our coastal zone, as well as reviving the Tweed Beach Safety Liaison Committee.
“The recent tragic shark attack off the beach at Salt highlights the urgency for the purchase of these drones,” Cr Byrnes said.
“When it comes to our safety in the water, the time for talk is over. These clubs need drone technology to keep us safe.”
He said local surf club members had expressed frustration about the
previous drone trial closing and wanted to see urgent action.
“The guys who save our lives and protect us on the beach feel more confident in doing that role with drones.
“It gives them an eye in the sky — you can see to help someone stuck in a rip, or see a shark.
“If you save one life, it’s worth it.” However, Cr Owen, a surf lifesaver for eight years, said he believed the NSW Government should be footing the bill.
“Those drones cost $27,000 each,” he said.
“I want to know where the money will come from. It’s not in our budget and doesn’t come under our core responsibilities.
“It’s more than just the drones, it’s the pilots and training. You have to have a comprehensive program and approach it strategically.
“At the moment if you bought a drone for every surf club, they would sit there unused because they would have to train pilots up and have them available every day.
“I’m not sure this has been properly thought through or is the best approach to what we need.”
Mr Provest expressed similar concerns on training and liaising with SLS NSW about the specialty drones used for the flyovers.
He said he was still in discussions with the minister, advocating for the cause.
“I think (drones as a shark mitigation measure is) a very good thing, but I think people using our beaches have to understand usually drones are in patrolled areas.
“We have 35km of beaches in the shire, so there is a lot of unsupervised beaches.”
The Tweed Daily News understands Cudgen Headland Surf Life Saving Club has two drones, which it is unable to fly for shark mitigation.
When questioned, a Surf Life Saving NSW spokeswoman said it was working with the club to “to ensure that these assets have all the appropriate equipment to allow them to operate”.
“The club are currently in the process of sending this equipment to SLSNSW,” she said.
“SLSNSW will then work to undertake maintenance on the assets and procure any equipment that may be missing to ensure the kits are complete.
“These will then be sent back to the club, where the assets can be used to improve beach safety.
“SLSNSW always wish to work alongside local government to investigate innovative solutions that improve beach safety along the NSW coastline.”
The Department of Primary Industries responsible for the initial drone trial on the Far North Coast did not return our request for comment in time for publication.
EYE IN THE SKY: Tweed Shire councillor Reece Byrnes, pictured at Kingscliff, has put a motion forward for the council to pay for and loan six drones to surf clubs for shark mitigation.