Blueprint to Help Cut Drownings Across North and Far North Coast

A state-wide coastal public safety risk assessment project has commenced on the North and Far North Coast 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. The third year of the project will see the coastlines of the Richmond, Clarence, Nambucca and Bellingen Local Government Areas assessed with Coastal Risk Officers having already having reported on Coffs Harbour LGA in February 2013.

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.

Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Risk Officers will assess over 165km of coastline extending from Broadwater in the north to Scotts Head in the south throughout Richmond, Clarence, Nambucca and Bellingen Local Government Areas.

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.

More than 350 people have drowned in NSW since 2004. 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.

Bellingen Shire Council Mayor, Cr Mark Troy, said Council was extremely supportive of Surf Life Saving NSW’s Project Blueprint.

“Bellingen Shire is home to some of the most scenic beaches and waterways in the State,” said Cr Troy.

“Project Blueprint is a fantastic initiative aimed at identifying any foreseeable risks and hazards along our area’s coastline as well as implementable safety mitigation measures.

“This project has the potential to make an immeasurable impact on the safety of beachgoers within the Bellingen Shire.

“Surf Life Saving NSW will be engaging with members of the general public throughout the assessment process and I would certainly encourage all interested residents and regular water users to attend the upcoming public information sessions and have their say on the area’s coastline", added the Mayor.

Lawrence Orel, Senior Public Affairs Officer for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said it was great to see expertise shared across agencies.

“The National Parks and Wildlife Service is very supportive of Surf Life Saving NSW in their efforts to improve safety on local beaches”.

Over four years the project will aim to 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.

Areas already targeted in the first two years of 'Blueprint' include Tweed, Byron and Ballina areas, Coffs Harbour, Lake Munmorah, Wyong, Randwick, Wollongong, Gosford, Waverley, Sydney’s Northern Beaches (Pittwater, Warringah and Manly), Bega Valley and Shoalhaven.

Members of the public from the Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley, Nambucca Shire and Bellingen Shire 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:

  • Nambucca LGA
    Nambucca Entertainment Centre (Ridge Street, Nambucca)
    Saturday 26 July from 11:00am – 12:30pm

  • Bellingen LGA
    Bellingen Senior Citizens Centre (33 Hyde Street, Bellingen)
    Saturday 26 July from 2:00pm – 3:30pm

  • Clarence LGA
    Treelands Drive Community Centre (Treelands Drive, Yamba)
    Sunday 27 July from 10:30am – 12:00pm
    Grafton Community and Function Centre (59 Duke Street, Grafton)
    Thursday 31 July from 6:30pm – 8:00pm

  • Richmond LGA
    Evans Head Surf Life Saving Club
    Monday 28 July, 2014 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 and 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 http://www.coastsafe.org.au/blueprint.

Tue 8 Jul 2014