My letters regarding Byron Bay surf lifesavers, describing my real-life observations on the beach and rather modest suggestions for improvement, were written off as a ‘rant’ by Dan McCabe and ‘rubbish’ by Heather Black, who castigated Echonetdaily for even publishing them. What price freedom of speech?
The big problem with the letters written in reply to mine is that all of the writers seem to equate ‘criticism’ with ‘not caring’, or somehow ‘anti’. This is not true. Additionally, none of the letters actually addresses the points I raised, preferring instead to just tell me what a dolt I am.
In his letter, Rob Siebert mentions the lifesavers who patrol the beach, and Heather Black tells us that ‘their patrols can be at least six hours in the hot sun and glare’ (the same hot sun and glare that the tourists so love), and even Chris Larkin tells me that, should I join the club, I could be out patrolling the beach. Which all brings me back to the main point of my original letter: that the surf lifesavers do not, in my experience, appear to patrol at all!
That was the nub of my criticism. I have been walking these beaches at least once a week for the past couple of years and I have never yet seen a lifesaver anywhere on the beach except in very close proximity to the 50-metre flagged area. (Did I get them on a bad day?) And my suggestion that they might spread out a bit more was not made out of malice, but simply out of a desire to make the beaches safer without much additional effort. My comments about corralling people into a minute flagged swimming area and the very real dangers that lurk therein were simply ignored by all correspondents. I am genuinely interested to know why we must have these ridiculously small flagged stretches of beach, where people are crowded in like sardines, on a beach several kilometres long. Perhaps there is a logical reason? If so, will someone please tell me instead of just slagging me off.
Much is made in the letters of the fact that the surf lifesavers are working voluntarily, as if that somehow makes things different.
Unfortunately, work is work and whether the lifesavers are volunteers or not does not alter the nature or scope of the job to be done on the beaches (lifesaving), nor the need to do it. And, like it or not, Byron Shire Council does pay $175,000 per year for ‘surf lifesaving services’. (Check the budget.)
Thanks for the invites to join the club. Were my circumstances different, and I were much younger, I would have loved to. (I grew up in a landlocked country, but was a beach bum for a couple of years in my youth, before growing up took over as a priority.) I am retired now and I have two volunteer jobs, from which I get a great deal of satisfaction. Thus my spare time is pretty well taken up.