Skip to main content
After a horror holiday period which resulted in the drowning deaths of at least 20 people, water authorities across New South Wales have united to deliver a strong safety message ahead of the Australia Day public holiday.

Representatives from agencies incorporating the broader water safety community gathered at the Marine Area Command headquarters in Sydney on Tuesday to plead with the public to take water safety seriously as the drowning toll continues to rise.

“While there has been a spike in drownings along our coast over the Christmas period it’s also important to note that at this time last year we saw a surge in drownings continuing through January and February,” said Surf Life Saving NSW Acting CEO Adam Weir.

“That is why we are taking this opportunity ahead of Australia Day to reinforce these safety messages to the public. We don’t want a repeat of last season and our goal is for everyone to be able to safely enjoy their time on our beaches and in the ocean and other waterways and beach environment safely.”

Sadly many of the recent drownings have been around other bodies of water, including lakes and backyard pools as well as on the coast highlighting the importance of education in public safety.

“It is extremely important that parents and carers of children stay alert and remain cautious over the Australia Day period. Around backyard pools it is vital you supervise children at all times while on, in or near the water, ensure your pool fence and gate are maintained and in good working order, enrol your child into water awareness lessons as soon as possible and learn resuscitation,” said Royal Life Saving NSW CEO David Macallister.

“When participating in aquatic activities in other waterways such as rivers, creeks, streams and lagoons always check the depth, check for snags and submerged objects that can cause injury, never swim alone and don’t take risks. It would be great to see an injury free Australia Day long weekend."

The death of another rock fisherman at Tathra on Saturday has again put the issue of lifejackets squarely back on the agenda with police sending out a strong reminder about the dangers of this recreational activity.

“In recent weeks we’ve seen a tragic loss of life across NSW from numerous drownings. These are not merely statistics; each of these people is someone’s loved one,” NSW Police Marine Area Commander, Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings said.

“Taking simple steps – like wearing a life jacket, checking weather conditions, and ensuring you’re prepared with proper safety equipment – can make a significant difference if you find yourself in a dangerous situation on the water.

“I’d also like to remind boaters – and anyone enjoying recreational water sports – that alcohol and water activities do not mix. And the same rules apply for drink driving on water as they do on land – do not take the risk,” Det Supt Hutchings said.

While boating activities are a traditional way to enjoy the celebrations of the public holiday it is easy to get into difficulty.

Roads and Maritime Services will coordinate the on water traffic management on Sydney Harbour this Australia Day, including installing yellow buoys to mark exclusion zones and providing skippers with advice both on the water in marked patrol vessels and on marine radio.

Roads and Maritime Executive Director Maritime Angus Mitchell said with the large number of vessels of all sizes enjoying the day throughout the State’s waterways on the water, skippers will need to remember to be patient, courteous and always travel at a speed appropriate to conditions. Being mindful of your vessel’s impact on other’s right to enjoy the waterway is not only required by law in many instances but more importantly, basic common sense and courtesy.

“The speed limit for recreational vessels around exclusion zones will be six knots within 200 metres of the events. Wash should also be kept to a minimum,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Boating Safety Officers will be taking a zero tolerance approach and issuing on the spot fines for boaters who aren’t wearing or carrying don’t wear a lifejackets when required to by law.

Marine Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Dean Storey emphasised the need for boaters to take simple and sensible steps to help ensure they stayed safe on the water.

“Over the past five weeks, MRNSW volunteers have responded to 531 incidents on the water, including 154 life-endangering emergencies,” he said.

“We particularly urge all boaters to Log On and Log Off with MRNSW. Tell us where you are going and when you are due back. If you’re not back as expected, we will start to look for you.”

“Over the Christmas - New Year’s period when many people were on the water, 4,565 boaters Logged On with MRNSW – about 20 per cent of those were via the app,” Deputy Commissioner Storey said.

“The safety benefits of Logging On were shown on Sunday, when Marine Rescue Jervis Bay volunteers, using information from the app, located a yachtsman who was several hours overdue.”

Volunteer surf lifesavers will be out on patrol this Thursday January 26 and will continue patrolling each weekend and public holiday until the season concludes on Tuesday 26 April 2017.

Australia Day Safety Tips

• Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags. For your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe App or website

• Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a surf lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information

• Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water

• If you need help stay calm and raise one arm to attract attention

• Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs • For additional safety recreational boaters can log on by marine radio, phone or via the MarineRescue app for smart phones and mobile devices prior to their trip

• Be sun safe by Slipping on some protective clothes, Slop on some sunscreen, Slap on a hat, Slide on a pair of sunglasses, Seek some shade, and Sip on lots of water to stay hydrated

• Wear the correct gear including a lifejacket if you’re going to be out rock fishing

• In an emergency dial Triple Zero – Police


Tuesday 24 January 2017