Swim at your peril

By PETER CATON

TOURISTS and residents at the billion-dollar Casuarina Beach resort township may be banned from swimming at their local beach.

Tweed Shire Council administrators last night said they did not have $28,000 to provide lifeguard services over the upcoming Christmas and Easter holidays.

The simplest solution, they believe, may be to outlaw swimming on the increasingly busy beach altogether.

The three administrators ? Garry Payne, Lucy Turnbull and Max Boyd ? yesterday voted to provide patrols costing just over $122,000 on six other Tweed Coast beaches.

But they decided to call for a "risk management assessment" for Casuarina Beach to look at closing the beach to swimming.

The move outraged residents who had campaigned for patrols.

"That is absolutely ludicrous," said Casuarina Beach Residents Association president Julie Bennett. "Why develop a beachside area where you know the beach is going to be used? What is the cost of a human life?"

She vowed the local beachsafe committee would keep up its fight for patrols, not just for residents but for tourists whom she said were often unaware of dangerous conditions on the beach.

"The beaches and patrols are council responsibility. It's what we pay rates for," she added.

Last year Casuarina Beach developer Consolidated Properties provided $10,000 towards the peak holiday season patrols but has told the council it won't do so this year.

Instead the com-pany says it has given $10,000 towards the Salt Surf Life Saving Club established by developers of the Salt development several kilometres north.

Ms Turnbull said the extra $28,000 was not in the budget, and although she did not want to close the beach, it was an option.

She called on Consolidated Properties to "take a page out of what Salt has done" and said the issue of patrols should have been a condition of the original development approval for Casuarina.

Mr Boyd said closing the beach to swimming "might be the safest way to go".

"Council doesn't have a bottomless pit to draw from in terms of supplying lifesaving patrols," he added. "If we support this, we are locking ourselves in for evermore".

Consolidated Properties joint managing director Don O'Rorke said his company had paid substantial developer fees specifically for surf lifesaving and every ratepayer also contributed to surf-life-saving costs.

"Between ourselves and Salt we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating a tourism precinct that generates for council many millions of dollars," he added.

"For council to consider closing a beach in what is probably the Tweed's most significant tourism precinct is plainly ludicrous."



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