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Project aims to reduce drownings

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BLACK spots for drowning will be targeted in a project that kicked off at Tweed Heads this week.

The state-wide coastal public safety risk assessment project by Surf Life Saving NSW aims to reduce coastal drowning deaths by assessing every beach and rock platform in NSW over the next few years.

The first phase of the initiative will target priority black spots in 10 local government areas, starting with Tweed.

Project manager Adam Weir met with Tweed mayor Barry Longland and local MP and parliamentary secretary for police and emergency services, Geoff Provest yesterday to launch the project being run through the NSW Water Safety Black Spot Fund and managed by Australian Coastsafe, a wholly-owned business unit of Surf Life Saving Australia.

Risk assessors will be gathering data at 223 beaches and headlands over the coming months.

Areas targeted in the first phase include Tweed, Byron and Ballina areas, Coffs Harbour, Central Coast and Sydney.

Mr Weir said that while the scope of the project was daunting, the information was vital to providing water safety agencies with an effective strategy to reduce the coastal drowning toll.

"Each year, many lives are lost along our coastline, leaving families devastated and communities in shock," he said.

"Our goal is to reduce drowning deaths by 50 percent within the next decade."

Three hundred people have drowned in NSW since 2004 with 36 of them on the Far North Coast.

The vast majority are people caught in rip currents while swimming, or swept from rocks while fishing and almost all occur at unpatrolled locations or outside patrol hours.

"We need to identify the factors which are contributing to people drowning and put in place measures to reduce these risks," Cr Longland said.

"Local governments have an important part to play in this and our staff from council are assisting the project team to gather information and look at how we can work to improve safety on our beaches"

Mr Provest said more people than ever are drawn to Tweed's beautiful coastline.

"Although long-time residents may have local knowledge, the wider community stands to gain a great deal from this initiative," he said.

Final assessment reports will be provided to the NSW Government and other relevant agencies and land managers, creating a working 'Blue Print' for a state-wide coastal drowning prevention strategy.

For more information on Project Blueprint and to find out how to be part of the consultation process, go to www.coastsafe.org.au/blueprint.

Topics:  beach, drowning, surf life saving, tweed heads



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