Surf safety education a must for Macarthur councils says Wollongong Lord Mayor

Time for dip: Port Kembla Beach has been a popular destination for people wanting to have a swim in the ocean. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Time for dip: Port Kembla Beach has been a popular destination for people wanting to have a swim in the ocean. Picture: Sylvia Liber

There may be no beach – apart from Simmos – in Macarthur, but surf safety education is still vital.

That’s the belief of Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.

Beaches in the Illawarra region were again a hotspot for tourists over the Christmas and New Year holidays, with strips of sand south from Stanwell Park replaced by hordes of bathers.

However, it was not all fun and games with three people dying on south coast beaches last weekend.

Cr Bradbery said the council did it’s part when it came to beach safety – spending about $5 million putting on full-time lifeguards, six days a week, from the October long weekend until Anzac Day.

But he said he wanted to see neighbouring councils also ram home the message about surf safety.

“It hass been an interesting time (in recent weeks) with beach tourists and people coming down from your part of the world,” he told the Advertiser.

“The massive expansion of people in Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly in the next 20 years will put even more pressure on us. Developers in those areas are already advertising that those areas are only 45 minutes from the beach. It’s a selling point.

“But it’s very concerning that people from your part of the world have no surf awareness or surf training. That’s an area that (Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly) councils could be proactive in.”

Campbelltown Council’s director of city lifestyles, Lisa Miscamble, said the council – in partnership with the South West Multicultural and Community Centre – would hold a beach safe program next week.

A two-hour theory session will be held in Minto on Tuesday. Surf lifesavers will then put participants through their paces in a pool at Wollongong beach the next day. They will also learn about beach and rock safety, and how to identify a rip.

“Council is always keen to work with partners and will be in contact with Wollongong City Council to share information about our current program,” Ms Miscamble said.

A Camden Council spokesman said the organisation was working with the YMCA and Royal Life Saving NSW on an open water survival program. The initiative would teach participants dangers around water and how to promote safe behaviour.

“The program will be integrated into the learn to swim programs at council’s leisure centres and will teach participants valuable lifesaving techniques to better deal with basic water emergency situations in inland waterways and the surf environments,” he said.

Wollondilly Council’s acting manager of economic development and tourism, Rob Moran, said the council “does not currently run any surf education or training programs” though learn to swim lessons were available at Wollondilly Leisure Centre.

He said the organisation teamed up with Campbelltown Council and Surf Life Saving NSW in April 2016 to run a beach safety workshop, and the council would be keen to be involved in a similar program.

“Council is keen to collaborate with Wollongong or other councils to establish ongoing education initiatives around surf safety,” he said.

Cr Bradbery said nationally, Wollongong Council had the second biggest cohort of lifeguards – only eclipsed by the Gold Coast.