Drowning a ‘very high risk’ at beach festival
BUSINESS leaders and lifesavers predict SandTunes will lead to a surf fatality wrecking the southern Gold Coast's tourism image as a safe swimming destination.
The Bulletin understands that lifesavers are at a loss on how they can stop some of the 35,000 revellers from entering the surf during the two-day music festival on Coolangatta Beach from November 30.
Southern Chamber of Commerce president Hilary Jacobs told the Bulletin: "The event is for nine hours on each of the two days, with the mixture of heat, sand, ocean and booze, inside a closed in pen.
"The local surf lifesavers have not lost anyone on these beaches. The last thing the community wants to see is this immaculate record broken by someone who is unable to get into the event, or intoxicated from being inside."
Ms Jacobs questioned "who is going to be patrolling the beaches" if tragedy strikes at 9pm.
"As the locals will tell you, they don't swim after dark, they leave the oceans to the sharks after dark," she said.
Ms Jacobs said some of the discussion on social media by concert fans was about "a swim up being planned" to listen outside the venue.
A surf lifesaving source said SandTunes was not like the Quiksilver Pro where organisers applied for a restricted licence and water craft could not enter the beach zone.
At Schoolies police and lifeguards patrol the surf but the teenagers are not drinking alcohol on the beach and those heavily intoxicated are prevented from entering the concert area.
"They won't do that here with a restriction zone. People can be on water craft and a jet ski. It is inevitable that people will get into the water," the lifesaving source said.
"I suggest to you that it is impossible to police from a surf lifesaving perspective. It's a very high risk event.
"Clubbies are admitting they don't know how they are going to manage it. You can't get your patrol gear out. You haven't got a flagged area. There will be drug smashed idiots out there."
A Surf Lifesaving Queensland spokesperson said lifesavers would be urging anyone "planning to take drugs or alcohol" not to enter the water.
"Being under the influence not only slows your reflexes but also significantly impairs your judgment," a spokesperson said.
Asked to respond to concerns about people entering the concert area from the surf, SLSQ again advised swimmers to stay between the flagged areas on beaches.
"Anyone planning on entering the water should always swim between the flags during designated patrol times, and never at night," the spokesperson said.
After Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey in state parliament said the event could damage the region's reputation and return Coolangatta to "Coolanghetto", the State Government has offered the alternative of Metricon Stadium.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones with Gaven MP Meaghan Scanlon plan to discuss a potential move with the promoter.