SEND IN THE DRONES

Coun­cil­lor calls for lo­cal ac­tion to fill void after fin­ish of shark mit­i­ga­tion trial

Tweed Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - JES­SICA LAMB

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.

Pic­ture: Scott Powick

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.

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