Hundreds turn out to oppose ‘barrier to surfing’

About 200 people attended a protest on Friday, March 18, about the positioning of the planned Shark Eco-Barrier at Lighthouse Beach.
About 200 people attended a protest on Friday, March 18, about the positioning of the planned Shark Eco-Barrier at Lighthouse Beach. Graham Broadhead

A SHARK barrier set to be installed at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach has annoyed a group of people it aims to protect - local surfers.

About 200 people, with some professional fisherman in the mix, attended a rally at North Wall today to voice their opposition to the placement of the Eco-Shark Barrier across Lighthouse Beach.

The plan is to extend the barrier from near the end of North Wall north by about 800m to the other end of the beach, then 45m back to the beach.

The surfers argue the positioning of the barrier, which will be put in for a three-year trial as part of the NSW Government's $16m shark strategy, will run right through the middle of the take-off zone for surfers.

Organiser of the rally, Mark Hernage from Ballina, said it was "like putting a fence in the middle of a football field and telling the players they can only play on half the field or go to Lismore".

"Surf breaks like this are rare," he said.

"We need to protect this important resource.

"We are the main stakeholders - we are the ones who use this beach more than anyone.

"And it is the surfers who have been attacked by sharks.

"If the trial proceeds on the current basis, in our view it's a failure before it even starts."

The shark strategy, and the barriers for Ballina and Lennox Head's Seven Mile Beach, came about after the spate of shark attack off North Coast beaches - including one fatal attack, and two others in Ballina - last year.

Mr Hernage said the proposed placement of the barrier also would put surfers in danger from entanglement - and that's added to the danger of the sharks.

Some surfers simply don't want the barrier at all.

Mr Hernage said the planning for the installation of the barrier had been rushed, and he and other surfers felt as though they had been "fobbed off" in consultations.

He has put forward an alternative position for the barrier, with it extending on a 45-degree angle north-east of the end of the wall by about 100m, and then running north.

The surfers voted unanimously to meet with the Premier or the Minister of Primary Industries to have the positioning of the barrier moved.

A NSW Department of Primary Industries spokesperson said DPI and Eco-Shark Barriers have "investigated changing the location of the barrier on the beach but are unable to for this stage of the trial. 

"A location for the barrier further out to sea in deeper water is both technically unfeasible and would be a navigational hazard for boat users leaving the entrance to the Richmond River," they said.

"An undertaking has been given to boardrider groups that their views will be specifically sought during the trial and would help inform the evaluation of the barrier."

Topics:  fishing lighthouse beach protest shark nets surfing

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