Surf lifesavers are patrolling our beaches
Surf lifesavers are patrolling our beaches Jem Cresswell Photography

Massive volunteer effort to keep our beaches safe

AS YOU jump into the surf this long weekend, take a minute to think about how much is given to communities around the state by our lifesavers, the majority of which have started patrols on beaches across the state.

According to this year's NSW Coastal Safety Report, lifesavers give 663,607 hours to keeping the beaches of our state safe, with 4377 rescues completed.

Unfortunately, the report shows that 39 people drowned on NSW beaches this year, an increase of six on the previous year, and a slight increase on the 10-year average of 38.

This included the tragic drowning of a 57-year-old man at Yamba's Main Beach this April.

Surf lifesaving annual coastal report: The newly released coastal safety report shows a disturbing increase in drownings.
Surf lifesaving annual coastal report: The newly released coastal safety report shows a disturbing increase in drownings.

Of most concern for authorities was that the majority of these occurred to males who got into difficulty swimming outside patrolled locations.

Educating beachgoers about the importance of the flagged area will continue to form a vital part of surf lifesaving's safety messages as summer looms.

Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon Troy Grant MP, added that the increasing capability within Surf Life Saving to protect lives outside patrol hours and locations, and collaboration with other emergency services may hold the key to preventing coastal drownings.

"Surf Life Saving now responds to coastal incidents and emergencies on a 24/7 basis and a recent MOU signed with the SES means surf lifesavers will be available to support the community during natural disasters and emergencies away from the beach,” said Minister Grant.

SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce thanked the Government for its support of Surf Life Saving in NSW and urged the public to observe the key surf safety messages this season to keep themselves and their families safe.

"This season, we want to draw a line in the sand. We share the NSW Government's concern at the number of coastal drowning deaths that continue to occur along our coast.”

The adoption of cutting edge technology is also becoming increasingly crucial and the surf lifesaving community is no exception, with the organisation utilising drones for a variety of activities.

Last summer SLSNSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) committed to a partnership program of aerial surveillance as part of the State Government's $16 million shark mitigation strategy.Lifesavers and lifeguards flew daily operations throughout the summer at nine locations across Northern NSW and Port Macquarie, with the data gathered to be utilised by the DPI as part of their research programs.

While shark surveillance is one task these drones have performed remarkably effectively, an incident in January underscored the potential of the technology in other areas of lifesaving operations with a rescue of a pair of men at Lennox Head.

The trial is being extended and drones flights are being tested at Yamba this season.