Surfers ‘stonewalled’ over concerns about shark barrier
A COMMUNITY meeting in Lennox Head last night has done nothing to ease surfers' concerns about the installation of an eco barrier at Lighthouse Beach at Ballina.
It has been reported that more than 200 people attended the meeting.
Local surfer Mark Hernage told ABC North Coast this morning the surfing community felt they were being "stonewalled" by the Department of Primary Industries.
He said installing a barrier was just another risk for surfers to negotiate.
"It's right through the surf zone, right where we surf, so it's like going down to the local football field and putting a fence on halfway, and saying, 'sorry you can only use half the field'. That's how the surfers feel about this," Mr Hernage said.
"The message definitely hasn't got through ... they are stonewalling the surfers and the surfing community by not valuing our thoughts and contribution about the risks, the very real risks, to surfers and ocean users.
"They are looking at preventing attacks ... yet they are still happy to put in a barrier which is going to be a direct threat to people and people's safety. I just can't understand it."
Mr Hernage said surfers were concerns about people getting tangled in the barrier and drowning.
Deputy Director-General of DPI Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan, told ABC North Coast the risk to surfers was "moderate".
"I think that's the case when anyone goes in the ocean ... in this case you know there's going to be a barrier out there and you take an approach to reduce that risk," he said.
Dr Allan said it was important to make sure surfers were educated and aware about the barrier.
He said a thorough review would be undertaken to look at what was happening to the barrier and whether it was standing up to the conditions, and also to gauge the community's reaction.
"After one year we will have a formal review and the trial will go for three years," he said.
When asked whether the barrier would stand up to conditions such as those seen during the East Coast Low earlier this month, Dr Allan said it was a "key component of the trial".
"The manufacturers are confident that it will, and we're doing to trial to check that," he said.