Towers 'a big difference'
By CRAIG McTEAR
WHILE the debate rages in Coffs Harbour over the need for surveillance towers on our beaches, Port Macquarie's have made 'a big difference', according to lifeguards.
There have been five towers on Hastings beaches since 2003 following a successful Towers of Strength campaign, which included a $36,000 State Government contribution.
That is in stark contrast to the Rotary Club of Coffs Harbour Daybreak's tower drive which was last week snubbed by the same government.
Hastings Council senior lifeguard Jamie Martin said the towers had resulted in a 'huge' improvement in surveillance.
"The advantage is you're looking down on the water and you definitely get a feel for what is happening," Mr Martin said.
"You can identify an emergency before it happens.
"The towers operate at their best on crowded beaches when one lifeguard is in the tower and the other is at the water's edge and both are in radio contact."
He said the towers also addressed occupational health and safety issues for lifeguards, who were now protected from ultraviolet rays and the wind.
Mr Martin said the Port Macquarie towers were similar in shape to those on the Gold Coast and were made from galvanised steel, protecting them from the elements to a certain extent. Each deck is three metres from the ground.
The towers are also regularly maintained.
Residents at one beach had been concerned about the towers spoiling their picturesque environment, and there had been 'negative resistance' from some surf clubs which felt they weren't needed and were a waste of money.
However, there had been no negative feedback since the towers had been built.
"We've had one complaint about a burglar alarm going off in one of our towers when kids got in there," Mr Martin said.
"We've had very minimal vandalism problems in the two or so years since they've been in place. "We've had a smashed window and a crack in another.
"They've got alarms in them."
The five Port Macquarie towers cost a total of $75,000 to build, a better-than-expected outcome because of donated labour and materials.
Leftover funds were used to stock the towers with hand-held radios, public address systems, binoculars, refrigerators, spinal boards and defibrillators.