Alstonville resident Terry Prendergast yesterday urged Ballina Shire Council to promote the waterfalls in the area as tourist attractions.
Following the death of a 30-year-old Queensland man at Dalwood Falls in January this year, the council has been undertaking a risk assessment of the various waterfalls in the shire.
They include Dalwood Falls, Tosha Falls and Killen Falls, each of which presents its own ‘unique legal, social and economic challenges’.
General manager Paul Hickey outlined work already undertaken at the various sites, including improved signage, fencing and patrols.
But despite the measures, the council heard the waterfalls remained popular attractions, with Dalwood Falls attracting more than 70 people a day during warmer months.
Mr Prendegast, during public access, said instead of trying to stop people accessing the waterfalls, the council should instead promote the area as ‘The Waterfall Way’ and embrace them as tourist attractions.
Living next to Tosha Falls, Mr Prendergast said people had been accessing the falls via his land for years.
He urged the councillors not to support erecting fences to keep people out, but rather to build a paved pathway to improve access.
Cr Susan Meehan said however that the council should be doing everything it could to discourage people from accessing the various falls, adding that her son had dislocated his shoulder at Dalwood Falls.
‘We need to make it [Dalwood Falls] unattractive to kids,’ she said.
Other councillors disagreed.
Cr Sharon Cadwallader said walls, fences and barbed wire would not work.
‘People will always find ways to get around them,’ she said.
Cr Keith Johnson warned fellow councillors that any promotion of the waterfalls by the council could go against it if there was legal action taken against the council.
“We should discourage people from using them’, he said.
Cr Keith Williams said he didn’t want to see barbed wire fences.
‘We need to learn to manage our natural areas in a natural state without putting in fences or viewing decks,’ he said.
With regard to Dalwood Falls, councillors noted that work had been underway improving signage and cutting down trees close to the falls, and approved the erection of basic fencing to deter people.
Cr Jeff Johnson voted against.
For Tosha Falls, the council authorised the general manager to improve existing risk management practices by installing better signage, increased inspections and to consult with neighbouring landowners to minimize the impact of visitors accessing the site through private property.
For Killen Falls, the council voted to offer it to Rous Water to manage, but in the meantime, accept that access to the falls needed to be improved to ensure the safety of visitors.
For all the falls, the council voted to investigate management options that would be needed if the council-owned falls were promoted as tourist attractions.
Mr Prendegast also urged the council to consider Marshalls, Cascade and Marom Falls in future reports.