Dave Carter, the President of Ballina Jetboat Surf Rescue, has gone public about a controversy which has been keeping his team’s boat out of rescue service for the last three months.
He says BJSR received a letter from NSW Surf Lifesaving on 11 February, withdrawing them from service immediately.
‘The letter was sent without warning, without further information or any support for our volunteer members,’ said Mr Carter.
‘Since that day we have attempted to work with NSW SLS to get this resolved. Any issues identified have been responded to and we have had a number of meetings with NSW SLS.
‘In the letter NSW SLS stated that if we could address the issues identified that we would be allowed back on the water in the interim but also that NSW SLS wanted to remove us from service completely from 2024.
‘This happened while we were working to complete a full mechanical refit of our boat. It has now been completed and is more efficient, responsive and reliable than before,’ he said.
Rescue boat ready for action but lying idle
According to Mr Carter, ‘The boat is rescue ready and sitting in our shed but unable to be utilized. If an incident occurred today on the Ballina bar or outside, we would not be able to respond. This to us is unacceptable as it places our community at risk.’
As the only service that can cross the Ballina Bar in any conditions, Mr Carter notes that Ballina Jetboat Surf Rescue has served its community proudly for decades, performing almost 1,000 rescues in its history.
‘Our small group of volunteers performs a 24/7 callout service 365 days of the year and our aim is to be on the water within 20 minutes of a call,’ he said.
‘Ballina Council have been great in their support. Our local community have always been our biggest supporters and we will continue to need your support as we strongly believe the decisions being made in Sydney by SLS NSW do not reflect the needs of our regional community.’
What’s the problem?
Dave Carter told The Echo, ‘We’re not sure 100% sure what the issues are, to be honest. A lot of issues have been brought up around training and vessel compliance, which we’ve addressed.
‘It’s been a very difficult process to go through. It’s been a long three months.’
Mr Carter says the jetboat has been comprehensively refitted, including a complete engine overhaul. He says if extra courses are needed for the volunteer team, they are happy to do them.
‘We can’t respond. That’s probably our biggest concern.’
Ballina Jetboat Surf Rescue shared Ballina Shire Council’s Volunteer Organisation of the Year Award with Rotary in 2021, and that encouragement is ongoing.
‘Mayor Sharon Cadwallader has been really, really amazing for us, and very supportive,’ said Mr Carter.
‘We spoke to her last week, and she actually raised it with the New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Steph Cook for us. And she’s organising further meetings to help get the matter resolved.’
For now, Dave Carter hopes that taking the issue public will help progress a solution to the stalemate.
‘We just want to get back out on the water and do what we do best and serve the people of Ballina, as we’ve been doing for the last fifty years,’ he said.