The Ballina Shire Council has endorsed a trial of shark nets following further attacks on surfers in recent weeks.
Ballina mayor David Wright told Echonetdaily that while he personally remained opposed to netting he realised that it would be going ahead ‘whether we like it or not’.
The state government announced recently that a six month trial of shark nets would take place as part of a multi-pronged effort to reduce shark encounters in local waters.
At yesterday’s meeting, councillors voted 8-2 to support a notice of motion from Cr Sharon Cadwallader to back shark nets for Ballina’s beaches.
Cr Keith Williams, the chairman of Australian Seabird Rescue, and new Cr Nathan Willis voted agains the motion.
Cr Williams told Echonetdaily that he was fearful that nets would give people a ‘false sense of security’ and result in the deaths of other marine life, including turtles, dolphins and possibly whales.
‘I’m frustrated because the state government announced watch towers and increased surveillance but they have delivered none of it,’ he said.
Cr Wright counted that watch towers had been ruled out by Ballina’s Shark Mitigation Committee and then the Department of Primary Industries in favour of using Ballina’s headlands, and other measures such as drone surveillance, tagging and smart drum-lines.
He said an extensive round of consultation would begin tomorrow at the Ballina Lighthouse surf club, and then at Lennox Head on Sunday.
‘The whole idea is to save as much by catch as possible,’ Cr Wright said.
‘If people want the nets put out in the morning and then brought in at the end of the day, that could happen.
He said nets would be fitted with pingers to deter dolphins and whales, and alarms to alert authorities if anything was caught up in the nets.
‘If we start getting by-catch I’ll be totally against it,’ he said.
And while Premier Mike Baird has promised that shark nets could be installed as early as Christmas, Cr Wright said any challenges to legislative changes could mean that nets could be delayed for up to two years.
Meanwhile, members of the pro-shark net lobby are planning a gathering at the skate park near Missingham Bridge on 5 November.