Surfers stunned by missing risk assessment on shark barrier
LOCAL surfers will challenge government staff at a shark forum next Tuesday over controversial plans to install a shark barrier at Lighthouse Beach, as it emerges a risk assessment for the project is still unfinished.
Ballina surfer Mark Hernage said a meeting being held at the Lennox Head Cultural & Community Centre would be the last opportunity for local stakeholders to stop what looked to be a pre-ordained decision by the Department of Primary Industries to forge ahead with building the eco barrier.
The barrier has been opposed by many local surfers because it's seen as invasive and a potential hazard.
Mr Hernage said repeated requests to the DPI for a proper risk assessment were finally answered this week when the department promised to publish the document on its website once it was complete.
He said it came as a surprise to discover a risk assessment wasn't done when the plan was originally announced.
"They were still happy to put in a barrier two months ago before they had even done a risk assessment," he said.
The barrier, believed to cost about $500,000, was intended to be built in March but was postponed due to hazardous conditions for divers.
Mr Hernage said surfers would continue to agitate over the issue until there was proof the DPI and the State Government took local concerns seriously.
"The whole process has been a massive failure in my opinion," he said.
"The Director General can't even acknowledge that surfers are the key stakeholders in this.
"The surfers have been the main people who have been attacked."
Of the five serious and fatal shark bites since 2014, four of them have been on surfers.
"I don't think it should be going in without a risk assessment and input from key stakeholders," Mr Hernage said.
"The surfers should have the most say because it's going to affect them the most."
Shark research talk
SOME of Australia's top shark biologists will be at next Tuesday's shark forum.
It will include a talk from the CSIRO's Barry Bruce, who is coming up from Hobart to co-present the latest white shark research with DPI shark biologist Vic Peddemors.
The forum is being hosted by the DPI at the centre in Park Lane, from 6-7.30pm.
The aim is for people to come along and learn about the shark research being done on the North Coast.
It is also an opportunity to hear the latest information on the roll-out of the State Government's $16 million shark management strategy.
For more information phone Kim on 0437 075 710 or visit the Shark Smart website.