Blueprint to Help Cut Drownings Across Kiama & Shellharbour

A state-wide coastal public safety risk assessment project is set to commence in the Shellharbour and Kiama regions with the aim of reducing coastal drownings across NSW.

Surf Life Saving NSW’s Project Blueprint aims to help reduce coastal drowning deaths by assessing every beach and rock platform in NSW. Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Risk Officers have already assessed the coastlines of Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Bega and will also visit Eurobodalla in early 2015.

Through the NSW Government's Water Safety Black Spots Fund, Surf Life Saving NSW is using the expertise of its Australian CoastSafe department to complete the project.

Coastal Risk Officers will assess over 58km of coastline throughout both local government areas starting in Shellharbour from the 10th-14th November and moving to Kiama from the 24th-28th November.

SLSNSW Coastal Risk Manager Adam Weir, says while the scope of the project is daunting, the information is 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. Our goal is to help the State achieve its goal of a reduction in drowning deaths over the next decade,” explained Mr Weir.

Both Kiama and Shellharbour councils have been heavily supportive of the project.

“Kiama Council welcomes Surf Life Saving NSW’s Project Blueprint and we support proactive measures to help curb the number of coastal drownings in this area.

"Fatalities due to drownings in our municipality have a significant effect on our community and a life-long impact on the families involved. We support this valuable initiative”, said Mayor Brian Petschler.

More than 350 people have drowned in NSW since 2004 including 15 from Kiama and Shellharbour. While the incidents have been varied 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. The last four drownings in Kiama and Shellharbour have all been rock fishing related.

"The risks associated with recreating in and near our coastal waters are often not known by the thousands of people who enjoy our beautiful beaches each week," said Shellharbour City Mayor, Marianne Saliba.

"Anything we can do to reduce the risk of harm to anyone enjoying time in the water is a worthwhile project," Cr Saliba said.

Over four years the project will cover coastline which includes 600km (38%) of rocky coastline and 990km of sandy coastline (62%). An estimated total of 892 locations will be assessed as part of the project.

Members of the public from the Shellharbour and Kiama Local Government Areas are invited to attend a consultation forum where there will be opportunities to have some input, ask questions and make suggestions for the local area.

Public Consultation Forums will be held:

Shellharbour Community Engagement Forum

  • Wednesday 12th November – Shellharbour SLSC

Kiama Community Engagement Forum

  • Wednesday 26th November – Pavilion Kiama
  • Thursday 27th November – Gerringong Town Hall

All forums are from 6:30pm – 8:00pm.

The assessment process examines a range of factors which can impact on risk, including education and information, signage and beach access, lifesaving and lifeguard services and the skills of those taking to the water. Local surf clubs and communities will be consulted throughout the project.

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

Interested members of the public who are unable to attend a consultation forum can engage with the project by visiting www.coastsafe.org.au/blueprint.

Thu 6 Nov 2014