In an ironic twist a controversial new $500,000 shark barrier currently being installed at the site of two serious attacks in Australia, could actually put surfers in more danger and ruin a surf break.
A new eco-barrier is being set-up across the take-off zone at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach in New South Wales (NSW). The thing is, it's going to be set up in such a position where the wave will actually break through the net, ruining the surf spot. Can you imagine taking off and immediately getting caught up in all that? There's also the additional danger that surfers could become entangled in it, forcing them to abandon Ballina in favour of other waves. Giant killer Stu Kennedy, who lit up the CT during his stint on the Gold Coast and Adam Melling joined a protest against the barrier last month.
According to the Eco-Shark Barrier website, it is designed to section off an area for swimming, from seabed to the surface and shoreline to shoreline. But no mention if it was designed with surfers in mind. It gets its eco tag from being 100 per cent recyclable.
We need an immediate stop on this project until our position is thoroughly considered by the Government.While surfers say they are not opposed to improved shark safety measures - two serious attacks and a fatality just up the road at Shelly Beach last year, are at the forefront of everyone's minds; surfers claim they were not consulted about where the shark barrier should be set-up – a notion that NSW's Department for Primary Industries (DPI), who are overseeing the installation, has refuted.
Now it's unclear what actually happened, with the government saying they did speak with local surfers and the locals saying that never happened. But Mark Hernage, Ballina ripper of more than 30-years, who is leading protests against the barriers, claims had that conversation taken place then it would have been made pretty clear that shifting the barrier back 100-metres or so would provide protection against the men in grey suits and also not put surfers in any additional danger.
''We provided the Department of Primary Industry (DPI) with an alternative placement that would maximise the surfing potential of north wall and the safety of surfers. This has fallen on deaf ears,'' Mark said.
''We have not been given a reason why it has not been seriously considered. I spoke with the manufacturer of the Eco Barrier and he said that it will not be moved and he also said that it would cost a lot of cash to remake a suitable barrier to fit our suggested alignment.
“We need an immediate stop on this project until our position is thoroughly considered by the Government. There will be more protests.
This new barrier forms part of NSW Government's shark strategy – a response to the record breaking year of attacks that took place throughout 2015 and is designed to keep water users safe.
Craig Moss, managing director of Eco Shark Barrier said: ''The barrier has been designed by an engineer for the depth of seven meters, which means the weights and anchors and floats are suitable for where it is to go now. And moving it at this point is not our decision and, can it be done - I am not sure, it may be too deep.
''When I spoke to Mark and moving it out an extra 100-meters or more at both ends, well of course the cost is greater, by how much, I don't know; we would have to go back to the engineer and try and allow for the depth of the water which could go from 10 to 15 meters at a guess. The cost at this stage is purely a guess and a big one at that. If it was to change, the floats have to be bigger, the weights and anchors have to be bigger and re-engineered. I can't say how much it would be.''
When asked whether the barrier had been designed with surfers in mind, Leanne Moss from Eco Shark Barrier said: ''Eco Shark Barrier is designed to be totally adaptable. The barrier is made up of thousands of individual modules that lock together to form the barrier. So the depth, length and strength can be all altered to suit the position of placement. If you like- it’s like a giant Lego system, which we build to suit the client’s needs, which vary depending on a combination of variables.''
A NSWDPI spokesperson claims local surfers have been consulted about the location of the new barrier: ''The location of the barriers at Lennox Head and Lighthouse beach have been determined in consultation with the local community, including the Le-Ba Boardriders Club, every step of the way.
''The Department of Primary Industries has given an undertaking to boardrider groups that their views will be specifically sought during the trial and would help inform the evaluation of the barrier.
''In March, divers from the Eco Shark Barrier team made attempts to begin installation of the State’s first shark barrier at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina. Recent storms and large waves have deposited huge amounts of sand in the wavezone at Lighthouse Beach, making it too dangerous for the divers to safely install the barrier. As a result, there has been a delay in the installation of the Eco Shark Barrier at Lighthouse Beach. The team from Eco Shark Barrier will continue to monitor water depths and will begin installation of the barrier at the earliest and safest opportunity.''
Le-Ba Boardriders reposted this message on its Facebook page from Mark Hernage in mid-March;
Repost from @mherno using @RepostRegramApp - This is the placement that DPI and NSW Government are placing a shark Eco...
Posted by Le-Ba Boardriders on Thursday, 17 March 2016