By Darren Coyne
Drones flying over Ballina shire beaches could be the main tool to guard against shark encounters this Summer following the failure of shark barriers at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach, and now Lennox Head.
Ballina mayor David Wright said everyone involved in the installation of eco-barriers – from the two manufacturers to Department of Primary Industries staff and Surf Clubs – were ‘devastated’ that attempts to install the barrier at Lennox Head would be discontinued.
The DPI announced via its Facebook page yesterday that the manufacturers of the barrier had advised that sand movement and swell had impacted the installation process, and the trial would be discontinued.
Cr Wright said divers inspecting anchor points on the Lennox barrier had discovered that the concrete blocks buried in sand had become exposed and were causing ropes to fray.
‘All was going well. They had two parts of the barrier braced but a couple of hours later when divers inspected they found that the back barrier had become frayed and wasn’t going to work,’ he told Echonetdaily.
DPI staff are on site today working with the manufacturers Global Marine Enclosures to remove the barrier and discontinue the trial.
‘We appreciate that many of you will be disappointed to receive this news,’ a DPI spokesman said.
‘I am sure you can appreciate that both GME and our team share this disappointment.
‘It is important to remember however, that this was a trial aimed at testing whether exclusion barrier technology could be used in Australian east coast conditions.
‘ We are committed to continuing to work closely with you and the local community to explore complementary shark mitigation technologies included in our strategy that may be suited to local conditions. We will provide another update in the near future.’
Cr Wright said although the failure of the barriers was disappointing, efforts to mitigate shark encounters would continue in the lead-up to the busy Summer holiday season.
‘We are looking at towers on top of the headlands with flashing lights and two-way communication between the drones and surf clubs,’ Cr Wright said.
He said drone technology was improving rapidly, with the latest models able to stay on patrol for up to four hours, carrying cameras, a loud hailer, and even a raft with a shark shield in it.
He stressed that no Ballina Shire Council money had been lost as a result of the failure of the barriers as the trials were being funded by the state government.