By Darren Coyne
There may be a gathering of shark experts at Lennox Head on Friday, but it’s not the sort of visitors Ballina shire businesses want to attract.
In fact, according to a recent survey by the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, most business owners would be happy to never hear about the sharks again.
The chamber sent a questionnaire to all businesses on its database during the recent school holidays in an effort to guage what, if any, impact recent shark activity and reporting may have had on local businesses.
The chamber’s executive officer Nadia Elliott-Burgess said more than 85 per cent of respondents indicated they had not experienced any impacts.
‘This included professional services, trade and construction, retailers and some tourism,’ she said.
‘Less than 15 per cent indicated that they have experienced a downturn they believe can be attributed to the recent shark activity, or media reporting of same.
‘Most of these respondents were tourism-based business with some from surf industry businesses.
Ms Elliott-Burgess said a common theme among those that responded to the survey was that they were sick of the hype.
‘They want to see coverage of the Ballina coast and hinterland as a holiday destination including promotion of the many other diverse offerings the region has available, ‘ she said.
She said operators wanted to concentrate on selling the positives, such as local food producers and ‘foodie’ offerings, hinterland and rainforest experiences, waterholes, river ways and coastal drives, along with a plethora of tourism attractions and tours.
Meanwhile, the public forum organised by the state government will be held at Lennox Head on Friday to inform locals of the latest shark safety measures.
NSW primary industries minister Niall Blair will host the meeting, from 6pm-7.30pm at the Lennox Head Public School Hall (Byron Street, Lennox Head) on Friday, October 16 to provide up-to-date information on bather protection and shark attack mitigation measures.
The ‘North Coast Shark Forum’ follows a summit in Sydney last month at which around 70 shark experts from around the world gathered to look at shark-attack mitigation measures suitable for triallling.
The Lennox Head forum follows a gathering of experts in Sydney recently, prompted by the fact there have been 13 shark attacks in NSW so far this year, up from three in 2014, and one surfer has been killed.
The government has already responded to a spate of high-profile attacks on the NSW north coast with a $250,000 shark-tagging program and an independent review of detection and deterrence technologies.