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Byron Shire
May 30, 2023

Education campaign underpins Council’s new leg rope policy

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If a law is never enforced, is it still a law?

This is a key question raised by Byron Council’s new regulation requiring surfers at local beaches to wear leg ropes.

In a development that had mainstream media frothing like groms in a cyclone last week, Byron Shire Council decided to erect signs warning surfers that they could be fined unless they are properly tethered to their boards.

Under the rules, surfers could theoretically face a fine of up to $1,100 if they don’t rope up.

However, the reality is that such a policy, while sending a message to surfers about the need to be safe in the waves, is virtually impossible to enforce.

Putting aside the fact that the rules won’t come into force until signs are erected during the next financial year, there remains no practical way to enforce them, and bring about a successful prosecution if the matter is challenged in court.

‘Given the comments in the staff report about the effectiveness of the signage and our inability to enforce it, I’m wondering if this is a good use of money, given our difficult circumstances,’ Mayor Michael Lyon said.

‘We’re putting a new burden on the budget next year that is already under pressure, and putting a greater burden on our already very busy compliance officers.

‘I don’t think this should be a priority at all for compliance staff. I want to make sure our compliance priorities stay with animal enforcement, parking and camping enforcement and other matters that are much more effective.’

However, the mover of last week’s motion, Independent councillor, Cate Coorey, said that the rules and accompanying community education campaign were about changing Byron’s surf culture.

Changing culture

‘Part of how we make this happen is by changing culture,’ Cr Coorey said.

‘That’s why a huge part of this motion is about community education.

‘Overwhelmingly I’m seeing community support for this, including from surfers.

‘People say, “well, surfers are a rebellious community, and they won’t support it”. But they nearly all do because they nearly all wear leg ropes.

‘This is about keeping surfers safe from each other.’

The new rules come following a number of recent incidents in which surfers suffered serious injuries after being struck by boards that were not attached to their riders.

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