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Byron Shire
November 27, 2021

Tweed still waiting for action on shark safety

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Tweed Councillor James Owen and Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes at a meeting on shark mitigation in Tweed Shire. Photo supplied.

Frustration at the lack of action in relation to sharks and beach user safety was clear at last weeks Tweed Shire Council meeting with Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes (Labor) putting a Notice of Motion (NOM) to seek funding for SMART Drumlines for Tweed Shire.

‘We are still largely unprotected at the beach,’ he told the meeting.

‘We have had a full year since the latest tragedy. It is time that Tweed gets the protection it deserves. This motion is asking council to ask local MP Geoff Provest to have some money dedicated to SMART Drumlines. We all deserve safety out there on the water.’

Councillor James Owen (Liberal) said he was happy to support the motion and told the meeting that a letter has already been written to the minister from a group of concerned community members.

‘There is frustration that there are measures out there that have minimal impact on marine life,’ he said.

Photo sharksmart.com.au.

SMART Drumlines are a baited hook. When the shark takes it the crew have to be there in half an hour to tag and then release the shark further out to sea. The shark website shows it has minimal impact on marine life. I have been contacted and told that there have been a lot of shark sighting around Fingal and the coast. We should give it a trial sooner rather than later.’

However, Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) told the meeting that, ‘For me it feels like and episode of Utopia. We had the department came up and talk to us about the best shark mitigation strategy. They came up with more drones and community education. This [seeking funding for SMART Drumlines] is preempting that for me. I think we need to let the process that is in place happen.’

Councillor Katie Milne agreed saying that ‘SMART Drumlines might be the way to go, but what’s the point fo doing the review if we are going to pre-empt it?’

Ultimately the NOM was altered to seek a request for shark mitigation strategies rather than specifically SMART Drumlines and was passed unanimously by all councillors.

A shark being caught and tagged. Photo CSIRO

No State $ for shark mitigation

However, the NSW state government 2021–22 budget has not identified funding for SMART Drumlines disappointing the Tweed Shark Attack Mitigation Group (TSAMG).

‘The Minister flagged funding for a SMART Drumline trial prior to last October’s budget but there was no funding then and there’s no funding yet again!’ Tweed Shire Councillor and member of TSAMG, James Owen said in a recent press release.

‘The NSW Department of Primary Industries has stated that it has “confidence that SMART drumlines are effective in removing the immediate risk to beach users at that beach, and other nearby beaches, for several months”. However, we are still waiting for the government to release the results of their “shark survey” which, amongst other options, asked the community whether they would be open to a trial of SMART Drumlines in Tweed.

‘We should already have the results of the survey, and there should have been money allocated in the budget to implement a SMART Drumline trial if the survey results indicate that is what people wan,’ he said.

‘It’s over 12 months since the fatal attack at South Kingscliff beach and the 2021 shark season’ is in full swing, with the whales migrating and the mullet running. People are concerned. We know that the ocean is the shark’s domain, and that we enter it at our own risk, however, when there is technology available, that has minimal negative impact on marine life, and is proven to reduce the risk of attacks on people, then we should be rolling it out in areas where there have been attacks to protect the community.’

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