Reality TV to save lives
Cliff cameras to guard rock fishing and swimming black spots
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.