Project Blueprint to help cut drownings

A state-wide coastal public safety risk assessment project has begun in the Tweed Shire and will target priority black spots for coastal drownings throughout NSW.

Surf Life Saving NSW has embarked on a major project to help reduce coastal drowning deaths by assessing every beach and rock platform in NSW over the next few years. The first phase of the project will target priority black spots in 10 local government areas, commencing in the Tweed.

Through the NSW Water Safety Black Spot Fund, the project is being managed by Australian Coastsafe, a wholly-owned business unit of Surf Life Saving Australia. Risk assessors will be gathering data at 223 beaches and headlands over the coming months. Areas targeted in the first phase include Tweed, Byron and Ballina areas, Coffs Harbour, Central Coast and Sydney.

Project 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 reduce drowning deaths by 50 percent within the next decade,” said Adam Weir.

Three hundred people have drowned in NSW since 2004 – 40 in the last 12 months. 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.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Michael Gallacher, says the NSW Government is committed to putting in place strategies to reduce accidental drowning deaths.

“We need to identify the factors which are contributing to people drowning and put in place measures to reduce these risks. This important project will hopefully provide us with a working blueprint for a state-wide coastal drowning prevention strategy,” said the Minister.

The assessment process will examine 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 as the project team moves south.

Final assessment reports will be provided to the NSW Government and other relevant agencies and land managers.

For more information on Project Blueprint and to find out how to be part of the consultation process, go to www.coastsafe.org.au/blueprint

Tue 28 Aug 2012