Re­al­ity TV to save lives

Cliff cam­eras to guard rock fish­ing and swim­ming black spots

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JACK MORPHET

CAM­ERAS mounted on coastal cliffs and ac­ti­vated in emer­gen­cies will beam live images of rock fish­ers washed into the ocean or stranded swim­mers at NSW’s most dan­ger­ous fish­ing spots and un­pa­trolled beaches.

The cam­eras and bea­cons are mounted to poles (pictured right) over­look­ing black spots, and live pic­tures and au­dio will be sent to NSW Surf Life Saving head­quar­ters when an emer­gency but­ton is pressed.

The first two emer­gency bea­cons will be in­stalled within weeks at no­to­ri­ous fish­ing spot Snap­per Point on the Cen­tral Coast and un­pa­trolled Shelly Beach near Manly.

A fur­ther 10 bea­cons will be rolled out at black spots in the next 10 months, although the ex­act lo­ca­tions still need to be ap­proved by lo­cal coun­cils.

Surf Life Saving NSW will next week meet with Kiama coun­cil to dis­cuss in­stalling the third bea­con at the Kiama blow­hole, where both rock fish­ers and tourists have died.

The per­ma­nent in­stal­la­tions follow the suc­cess­ful trial of a pro­to­type on Fin­gal’s Dream­time Beach in the Hunter, which, although only 200m from the clos­est surf club, is un­pa­trolled and where six peo­ple have drowned since 2009.

Who­ever ac­ti­vates the emer­gency bea­con by press­ing the but­ton will also be caught on video by a cam­era at eye-height, to help staff at the State Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre in Bel­rose weed out hoaxes.

“We can switch on the cam­era on the top and surveil the im­me­di­ate area to get eyes on the swim­mer,” NSW Surf Life Saving chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Phil Ayres said.

“We would then call the near­est avail­able ser­vice and get some­one there ASAP. The whole time we keep an eye on the si­t­u­a­tion, which is sim­ple but pow­er­ful.”

Rock fish­ing is the third high­est cause of coastal drown­ings be­hind swim­ming and boat­ing. How­ever, only Rand­wick, North­ern Beaches and Rich­mond Val­ley coun­cils make rock fish­ers wear life jack­ets.

Ev­ery coastal coun­cil should make life jack­ets manda­tory, ac­cord­ing to Surf Life Saving NSW chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Pearce.

Life jack­ets will be made manda­tory for rock fish­ers by Bal­lina, Cen­tral Coast, Lake Mac­quarie, Port Stephens and Suther­land coun­cils.

But NSW Recre­ational Fish­ing Al­liance safety of­fi­cer Mal­colm Poole said there were ma­jor prob­lems with the type of life jack­ets de­manded by the gov­ern­ment, and where they must be used be­cause of dif­fer­ent coun­cil rules.

Po­lice divers last night re­trieved the body of a 66-yearold man at Port Kem­bla in Wol­lon­gong, be­lieved to be the sixth rock fish­er­man who has drowned since April.

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