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July 30, 2021

Tweed Shire gets two shark drones while Ballina waits to hear

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Andrew Colefax uses drones to research shark behaviour and develop drone-based shark detection. Photo supplied.

Nationals member for Tweed Geoff Provest has announced that two drones will be provided for Tweed Shire beaches, yet Greens member for Ballina Tamara Smith says she is still waiting to find out if her Ballina electorate will receive any.

The drones are part of an $8m investment by the NSW government that will provide drones for 34 beaches in NSW and 21 shark detection centres. The government will be providing the drones to Surf Lifesaving clubs as part of the shark management programs with South Kingscliff/Cudgen and Cabarita receiving drones for shark management.

‘These measures will give not only beachgoers, but holiday makers and the community the confidence to move forward with their travel and holidays plans,’ said Mr Provest. 

‘This is good news for our region’s coastal communities and I am thrilled that the NSW government is taking local beachgoer safety, seriously.’

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has acknowledged that the scientific research has shown that ‘SMART Drumlines and drones are the most effective detection and surveillance tools’.

A ray found by Sea Shepherd volunteers trapped in a Ballina shark net on Sunday January 7, 2018. Photo Sea Shepherd Australia

Shark nets remain in use

However, the state government are still going ahead with the use of shark nets on 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong. The dangers of shark nets to whales and other non-target marine animals including many endangered species was demonstrated during the shark net trails in Ballina. They are also emphasised by the recent multiple whales that have become entangled in the nets off the Gold Coast. 

‘The way the LNP responds to shark bites is sadly, purely political. After several shark bites in the Ballina area, those tragic events were used to try and wedge the community through fear to agree to baited drumlines and shark nets on the North Coast,’ pointed out Ms Smith.

‘When the scientific evidence showed that lethal methods do not decrease risk of shark encounters they reluctantly pursued methods that do make a difference – such as eyes in the sky, eyes on the beach and drone technology.

Presumably the 30something beaches that are now going to have increased drone patrols include beaches in the Ballina electorate. But I have not been updated despite numerous inquiries over the past few months as we entered the winter season and heard on the grapevine that the smart drum lines and aerial patrols would cease.

We welcome drone technology and want to see patrols all year round at surf spots when the surf is up as surfers are at a higher risk,’ she said.

Our community sees right through the politics of funding non-lethal shark mitigation strategies on the North Coast but continuing with lethal shark nets in Sydney and Newcastle. Shark nets should be removed across the state, as they do not prevent shark bites.

The loggerhead turtle found caught in a shark net off Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach yesterday (December 18) before it was rescued. Photo Sea Shepherd

Need more drones

However, local Tweed Labor Councillor Reece Byrnes condemned Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest and his Liberal-National government for failing to provide shark mitigation measures for the Tweed Shire.

‘The NSW government has just announced an $8m shark mitigation strategy following a four-year trial. After four long years all Tweed Shire has received is only two drones and a shark listening station but no SMART drumlines for our beaches.

‘I recently called for Tweed Shire Council to invest in six drones because Geoff Provest and his government have failed to act and failed to protect our beachgoers,; said Mr Byrnes.

‘We have four outstanding Surf Life Saving Clubs within the Tweed Shire. These are: Fingal, Salt, Cabarita Beach and the Cudgen Surf Life Saving Club. These four Clubs desperately need effective shark mitigation/detection and other general beach and surf safety measures.

‘Locals are angry that we’ve been totally forgotten in this new state-wide plan. We see major shark mitigation measures down NSW coast yet Tweed Shire has been neglected leaving us all vulnerable.

‘When it comes to our safety in the water, the time for talk is over. The trial has finished, and we need action now. I’m calling on Geoff Provest to do his job.’

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  1. Drones and listening stations are the obvious answer. I recommend people do not spend their holiday money at beaches and areas that disrespect and kill our precious marine life and instead only holiday in areas like Byron and Ballina who do not use lethal shark nets. Lets put our money where marine life is respected. So dont go to the Gold Coast where in the last month 4 whales nearly drown in shark nets.

  2. Geoff Provest MP needs to display to his government that two drones in today’s society is insufficient for all of the TSC, especially when the drone is capable for; “need effective shark mitigation/detection and other general beach and surf safety measures”.
    It’s obvious that two major roles have eventuated in the last decade on the Fingal Peninsular being; Social Media pressure resulting from mass unemployment due to COVID-19 and border restrictions + the easy accessibility to arrive from the M1 highway. Of course, the real reason for our need is the statistical disproportion of deaths upon and around our headland.
    Show some courage and request drones for all of the TSC beaches from our state government. Just mention to our premier that the cost of a football field in Sydney is nothing as a price tag to the need of drones, and who pays to fill up the stadium… tax payers, like who we are.

  3. Nice work Geoff! How pathetic!! Another example of the LNP looking after it’s own…. & the environment & those who do not vote National are never considered. Logic & science dictates that all high use beaches deserve drones, listening stations & smart drum lines. All shark nets should be removed purely on the basis of bycatch.

    Surely if the Tweed coast warrants 2 drones, then based on recent history of shark attacks & sightings, numbers of beach users (not to mention quality of beaches!), then Byron & Ballina are much higher risk & should expect at least triple that number.
    Looks like Ballina is being punished by the LNP for not electing pork barrel Ben.
    And of course Nationals voters are more important than normal people.

  4. “‘We welcome drone technology and want to see patrols all year round at surf spots when the surf is up as surfers are at a higher risk,’ she said. ”

    A great idea but in practice it is impossible. Drones are useless unless deployed and operated by a skilled observer who can warn those in the surf of impending danger. Who will fund this?
    Perhaps some of this funding should be spent on developing a better type of net that can easily release non-target species. Must be a PhD in it for someone.

    A shame the Echo and local Greens see this as a political issue. It isn’t. It’s a life and death matter for surfers. btw Thanks for publishing my other letters on this topic.

  5. There have been fewer than 300 shark attacks in 150 years and on average only one fatality per year in Australia. On average 87 people drown each year at Australian beaches. What is all the fuss really about. Dying from a defective toaster is more likely.


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