Tourism showcase highlights local landmarks to global travel agents

Overseas travel agents dining at Fat Tony's Tathra. Photo: Gang Gang Tours
Overseas travel agents dining at Fat Tony’s Tathra. Photo: Gang Gang Tours

Foreign travel agents have just experienced a free Eurobodalla and Bega Valley holiday – all in the name of research for their customers back home.

Not a bad gig!

NSW Tourism Minister, Adam Marshall says, “We want to ensure that international travel agents are well informed about Australia’s number one state for tourism.”

“Helping put money into local pockets and boosting local economies,” Mr Marshall says.

Called familiarisation tours within the tourism trade or “famils”, three parties of 31 agents from America, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France have just sampled, South Coast Sea Planes, Montague Island Discovery Tours, Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Tours, Bodalla Dairy Shed, Drift Eden, and Tathra Beach House Apartments – among a host of other local attractions.

“These groups are specialist travel salespeople who will now understand our region better, this experience will help them sell our region,” says Anthony Osborne, Executive Officer of Sapphire Coast Tourism.

The three local famils hosted by Destination Southern NSW were part of a group of six tours that sprung from a trade event on the Gold Coast run by Tourism Australia, and follow on from famils to the Snowy Mountains in May and June with 26 participants.

Sea kayaking with Region X at Batemans Bay. Photo: Kerrie-Anne Benton
Sea kayaking with Region X at Batemans Bay. Photo: Josh Waterson 

“Two of the groups travelled to the South Coast from Sydney, the other from Canberra,” Mr Osborne says.

Eurobodalla Tourism Marketing Coordinator, Kerrie-Anne Benton, says the agents loved their South Coast experience.

“Nature, nature, and more nature, that’s why the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coasts were selected for these familiarisations,” Ms Benton says.

“And with flights into and out of Canberra and Singapore now, a gateway for travel has emerged connecting our region to the world.”

The Jindabyne based, Gang Gang Tours acted as chaperones on two of the three local tours.

“I had eight lovely ladies from the USA, front-line travel agents who will take this experience home,” says Gang Gang owner, Janine Becker.

“Out of the eight, seven hadn’t been to Australia before,” Ms Becker says.

“One of the agents told me people are wanting to get off the tourist trail, which is our region’s big selling point.”

Happy travellers at Glass House Rocks Narooma. Photo: Gang Gang Tours
Happy travellers at Glass House Rocks Narooma. Photo: Gang Gang Tours

Aside from teaching them about us, these opportunities also serve as a learning experience for local tourism bosses and operators.

“It was interesting to hear about travel patterns in other countries,” Ms Becker says.

“Workers in the U.S only get two paid weeks of leave a year, which means the average holiday runs seven to ten days.

“European countries tend to get four weeks paid leave, so they have longer holidays and have a great opportunity to travel to regional areas overseas,” she says.

Ms Becker doesn’t think the international market will be the biggest part of the Gang Gang business model, but she is keen to grow its influence.

“This experience will help us target our marketing better,” Ms Becker says.

The other point that emerged was that in most cases, international markets travel outside Australia’s peak periods and in some cases in the heart of our off-peak season.

In the year ending June 2016, the Eurobodalla welcomed 28,000 international visitors – 20% from the U.K, 15% Germany, and 11% from the U.S.A

Kerrie-Anne Benton thinks it makes business sense to target overseas holidaymakers.

“Australia is a finite market whereas there is massive potential for international travel growth,” she says.

“Canberra has opened up new opportunities for the South Coast and we need to encourage more tourism businesses to be international ready and have options ready for travellers.”

Captain Sponge Bob at Pambula talking oysters. Photo: Gang Gang Tours
Talking oysters at Pambula with Captain Sponge’s  Magical Oyster Tours: Photo: Gang Gang Tours

Further south in the Bega Valley, Anthony Osborne is nodding.

“Australia continues to see growth in international visits while the domestic market is static, it’s a no-brainer for us to focus some resources on building this market, and we have extra funding this year from Bega Valley Shire Council to tackle that challenge,” Mr Osborne says.

“We need to develop more experiences around our unique selling points. Nature and the coast are the number one reasons international travellers come to Australia and we have that in spades.”

*About Regional content is made with the backing of members, people, and businesses supporting local storytelling. Thank you – Sprout Cafe and Local Produce in Eden, Shan Watts, Robyn Amair, Gabrielle Powell, and Phil Martin.

*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

About Regional, podcast 13 – Reusable water bottles for every high school student

Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic Collage at Pambula.
Philanthropist Peter Hannan and Kerryn Wood from the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, present water bottles to students of Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula.

This week, one man takes on the garbage building in our oceans…

Every high school student in the Bega Valley will soon have a reusable drink bottle, cutting the need for single use, light weight, disposable plastic water bottles.

Over the last couple of months’ students at Eden Marine High School, and Lumen Christi Catholic College at Pambula have received a stainless steel drink bottle to refill at school taps and bubblers.

Kids at Bega High School got there’s today (May 16), and Sapphire Coast Anglican College down the road will soon have theirs.

This marine environment initiative comes from Bega Valley philanthropist Peter Hannan.

As someone who loves the ocean, Peter says he felt compelled to act after hearing of the impact plastics are having on the world.

Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.
Got yours yet? Featuring the logo of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.

Following last year’s Marine Science Forum, hosted by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, Peter made a pledge to buy 2500 reusable bottles and distribute them to year 7 to 12 students across the Shire.

Peter comes from a family of community action, his late mother Shirley, established a trust before she died to fund a national portrait prize that is held every two years, which has since grown to incorporate a youth prize in the alternate year.

See below for audio options to learn more.

My partners in this podcast are Jen, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps in Eden –  offering fully-supported hikes along Australia’s most spectacular coastline, it’s wilderness done comfortably.

Thanks for tuning in, your feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome, send your email to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Listening options:

Click play to listen here and now…

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom iTunes or bitesz.com

See you out and about!

Ian

Podcast 12 – Eden’s Wanderer Replica Project

Ben Boyd's Wanderer, painted by Oswald Brierly. From Wander Replica Project website.
Ben Boyd’s Wanderer, painted by Oswald Brierly. From Wanderer Replica Project website.

Today the story of a bunch of people with history and salt water in their veins, people making progress on ambitious plans to build a replica of an 1830’s luxury sailing ship.

Scottish-born entrepreneur, Ben Boyd sailed the 25 metre Wanderer into Sydney in July 1842, he soon set sail for Twofold Bay at Eden on the NSW Far South Coast following four steamers crammed with supplies down the coast.

Seeking his fortune, Boyd quickly established a network of pastoral properties spanning a landscape that took in the sea and the snow.

He also took charge of coastal steamship operations linking the region with Sydney, Melbourne, and Tasmania, and was a player in Eden’s whaling industry.

Part of his enterprise remains – the impressive Seahorse Inn. Construction started in 1843 using sandstone imported from Sydney and oak fixtures from England.

Boyd’s Tower on the southern shores of Twofold Bay is his other legacy. Constructed in 1847 the 23-metre-high lighthouse was intended to guide his fleet of ships home.

A number of challenges, not at least his overly ambitious plans and the financial depression of the time, combined to undo Boyd and he was declared bankrupt in 1848.

He left Eden on the Wanderer to restore his fortunes in the Californian Goldfields, but his treasure chest was never the same.

He was last seen in the Solomon Islands hunting for duck. Creditors came looking, but his body has never been found.

The Wanderer Replica Project was launched in 2014 by a group of locals with a love of Boyd’s story and skills in shipbuilding.

Fundraising moves ahead, and so too does the ship building.

I caught up with one of the committee members selling raffle tickets. Jon Gaul says apart from the historical and tourist interest the completed Wanderer will also offer youth training and development programs.

My partners in this program can also help you explore much of this history, Light to Light Camps explore the coastline between Boyd’s Tower and Greencape Lighthouse in style – it’s kinda like Attenborough meets Kardashian.

Check in with Jenny, Arthur and Jake at Light to Light Camps.

Thanks for tuning in – your feedback and stories ideas are always welcome, flick me an email to hello@aboutregional.com.au or we can connect via the About Regional Facebook page.

About Regional – a new place for the stories of South East NSW.

Listening options –

Click play to stream audio here and now:

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom iTunes or bitesz.com

New eco-tourism venture adds a touch of luxury to the Light to Light adventure

The pinks and purples of the Light to Light walk
The pinks and purples of the Light to Light walk

The pink and purple coastline that stretches south from Twofold Bay at Eden has long inspired bold and daring feats, and it continues to do so in 2107 with the launch of a new eco-tourism venture.

Light to Light Camps rolls out the red carpet for small groups of hikers, the first party of four ‘mature‘ ladies has just returned beaming about the experience.

Jenny and Arthur Robb have seen the potential this distinctive environment embodies, both from a business perspective as a new tourist attraction and at a personal level for those who lace up their boots and walk the track over two nights and three days.

This 31-kilometre adventure spans the ever-changing coastline of the Ben Boyd National Park on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.

The ‘lights’ that inspire the name are Boyd’s Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse.

Walkers travel between seven and 13-kilometres every day, an ‘intermediate’ walk taking between three and four and half hours after a good breakfast.

Mary Pearce (centre, white hat) and her girlfriends standing on top of Green Cape Lighthouse
Mary Pearce (centre, white hat) and her girlfriends standing on top of Green Cape Lighthouse

The first people of this country have known the track for thousands of years, the Yuin People have a history of hunting for whales from this shoreline and collecting shellfish, one midden in the area dates back 3,000 years.

White man history is perhaps more obvious to hikers and was a highlight for Mary Pearce and her girlfriends, the first to do the walk under Jenny and Arthur’s watch.

“Something I knew about but had never been to, and it was very poignant, was the Ly-ee Moon Cemetery, just a little bit north of Green Cape,” Mary says.

Driven by a screw propeller, the Ly-ee-Moon was sailing from Melbourne to Sydney in what the Captain described as a “moderate sea” on the night of May 30, 1886.

At around 9:30 pm the ship struck the rocky reef at the foot of Green Cape Lighthouse, which had only been in operation for the three years prior.

Seventy-one men, women and children lost their lives, the cemetery Mary points to is the stark reminder of the disaster. Sixteen people were heroically rescued in the darkness by the Lighthouse Keeper and his assistant.

Mary says Arthur and Jenny’s knowledge of the history dotted along the track makes for great campfire conversation at breakfast and dinner.

Mowary Beach, a highlight on the Light to Light walk
Mowary Beach, a highlight on the Light to Light walk

History is your starting point on day one of the walk under Ben Boyd’s Tower, on the southern edge of Twofold Bay.

Boyd was a Scottish stockbroker and entrepreneur with big ambitions in the new colony that was taking shape far from his London HQ.

The tower was built in 1847, Boyd keen to establish a lighthouse to guide his fleet of steamers and whaling boats home. His big plans failed on all fronts, but his tenacity is dotted around Eden to this day. I’ll leave Arthur and Jenny to tell you more.

While the history you will experience with Light to Light Camps is rich and varied, it’s the environment that is front and centre during this experience.

“It was absolutely so memorable,” Mary says.

“We’re keen birdwatchers, and we were really after a sighting of the Eastern Ground Parrot, which is quite elusive and rare.

“Arthur had us all clued up for it, he also told us we needed to be quiet,” Mary laughs

Wildlife abounds on the Light to Light walk
Wildlife abounds on the Light to Light walk

Two sightings followed on the stretch between Bittangabee Campground and Green Cape.

“Quite beautiful, quite spectacular, and very special,” Mary says.

Idyllic but basic campgrounds managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service at Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee Bay have always offered respite and sanctuary for walkers doing the track, but camping in that traditional sense is not an option for Mary and her girlfriends, who are all aged in their late 50’s, early 60’s.

What Jenny and Arthur offer, makes camping possible for people who otherwise wouldn’t and without a doubt they take it to a new level.

“When we discovered Light to Light Camps, it was a dream come true,” Mary says.

“We had the camping without the pain of camping, Jenny and Arthur took away the pain.”

Click play to hear more about Mary’s adventure with Light to Light Camps…

 

Mary says the walk itself is not terribly hard and remembers walking into Saltwater at the end of the first leg to be greeted by her hosts.

“We walked into this most gorgeous set up,” Mary recalls

Chillaxing with Light to Light Camps
Chillaxing with Light to Light Camps

“There were twin tents, beautiful camp stretchers with mattresses and white sheets and white, crisp pillowcases.

“We had a shower with hot water and we had gourmet food and wine, it was just like the Hilton at Saltwater,” Mary says.

The smile on the veteran teacher’s face broadens as she remembers the snacks and treats she nibbled in cool shady gullies along the way, and the fresh salad wraps that were eaten at lunch after a swim in the brilliantly blue waters of a sandy cove.

Hostess, Jenny has lived in the local area since the early 1980’s, Arthur since the mid-1990’s.

They are driven by sharing this unique landscape and it’s wildlife with people and providing a connection and experience not possible without their efforts.

“This place is very special,” Jenny says.

The Light to Light Track follows some of Australia’s most spectacular coastline.

The trail moves beside rocks dating back over 400 million years, a marine environment with incomparable diversity, coastal heath and forests of Banksia and Ti-tree, side by side with ancient Aboriginal culture.

“The stories of Eden’s whaling days are also part of the journey and the incredible and long-lasting relationship between whalers and Killer Whales,” Jenny explains.

“There is a lot to take in, and we invite people to explore it all at their our own pace without the burden of tents, food and extra water.

The end of a great few days, Green Cap Lighthouse
The end of a great few days, Green Cape Lighthouse

“We are there at the start and end of every day to spoil you with delicious dinners, a hot shower and a luxurious camp set up – we’ve got you covered,” Jenny beams.

Any new business comes with a good dose of nerves and risk. Being bold and daring is part of the required toolkit.

Mary thinks Jenny and Arthur are on a winner.

“I can see overseas tourists just loving it,” she says.

“It’s a truly Australian experience, it’s not mass-produced and plastic, it’s really as we are, the potential is just amazing.”

Light to Light Camps comes from and is inspired by South East NSW, About Regional is a proud partner and supporter.

#Sponsored Post

 

 

 

 

“The best summer ever” at Tathra Beach – Tony McCabe, lifeguard

Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach
Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach

The final days of the 2016/17 summer on Tathra Beach have been some of the season’s best, perhaps ‘the best ever’ according to longtime lifeguard Tony McCabe.

The water temp through most of January and February sat at around 21-22 degrees.

“We’ve had the best water temperature I can remember in 25 years,” Tony says.

Tony struggles to remember just how many summers he’s seen on the clean sands of Tathra, but thinks it’s about 41.

“For a couple of years I was down at Aslings Beach, I’ve had a season at Main, and I’ve done a few up at Camel Rock, but Tathra is my favourite,” Tony says.

Tex Glover was the man that started Tony’s professional career on the beach.

“He use to actually sleep in the surf club, he’d get up in the morning, sometimes a bit late and as young guys we’d come and put the flags out for Tex,” Tony remembers.

“He was a bit of a legend down here at the time and I sort of hung out with Tex for a fair while and then took over the mantle from him.”

Tony believe’s Tex is still going strong and is fitter than ever living in Canberra.

When Tony did his first patrol at around the age of 18, the belt and reel were still being used to rescue swimmers from the surf.

“You had to be a very strong swimmer because a lot of times you were towing 150 – 200 metres of line behind you.

“Then the guys on the reel would have to pull you back in, the guys on the line had to be strong as well,” Tony explains.

Like old Tex Glover before him, at almost 60 Tony is now inspiring the next generation of lifeguards.

“I enjoy training other guards and keeping the standard up.

“I just like to see the young people coming through, they’re enthusiastic and I just hope I can implant a little bit of my wisdom into them,” Tony says.

Click play, Tony talks about his time on Tathra Beach and what to do with blue bottle stings…

 

While keeping the public safe is the thrust of the job, Tony and his young team this summer have also become tourism ambassadors pointing people towards good coffee and a feed.

“It’s a great beach where you can meet people and tell’em a little bit about the area,” Tony says.

“A lot of families come back here, they just book year after year.

“All the locals embrace the tourists that come down here, it’s a really friendly area,” Tony says.

That relaxed easy approach can also open up discussion around surf safety.

“With rips, if they (swimmers) don’t know, they come down to the beach, they have a look at the big waves, and they see the calmer water, and think we’ll stay away from the big waves and jump in the calmer waters,” Tony says.

Tathra Beach looking north.
Tathra Beach looking north.

Not realising that the calmer water is often the rip.

“We’ve had a fair few overseas people here this year and they have just had no idea, and they have really appreciated that we have pointed out where the rip is,” Tony says.

The laid back look and nature of the paid and volunteer lifeguards at Tathra masks the dramatic twists and turns their day can take at any time.

“Sometimes the days you think are going to be your calmest, you have issues,” Tony says.

Tragically this summer a rock fisherman from Canberra died after being swept off rocks to the south of Tathra beach at Kianinny. Being a Saturday volunteers were on duty and responded.

“We have had to hop in the rescue boat and shoot down to Games Bay down near Wallagoot, where someone walking with their wife and baby trod on a stingray and couldn’t go anywhere so we had to go down and assist them.”

Over the years Tony also recalls drownings at the Bega River mouth, rescues at Nelson’s Beach 8km north of Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club, boats that break down, injuries at the nearby skate bowl, and heart attacks at the bowling club across the road.

“Only on Friday we had a lady bring a baby in from Turingal Head who had been stung by a blue bottle, and someone said get down to Tathra, the lifeguards are on duty during February, and she was ecstatic that we were able to help,” Tony explains.

“It’s not just sitting looking at the water, it’s all those other things that happen while you are down here.”

One of the big talking points of summer 2016/17 was the shape and look of Tathra Beach following June’s East Coast Low.

The wide strip of golden sand in front of the surf club was sucked away, creating an amphitheater overlooking the red and yellow flags and reducing the space people could claim as their own.

“We were really worried when we first started patrol, at high tide there is very little beach in front of the surf club,” Tony says.

“We were worried people would move further up the beach (away from the flags) where there is more room.”

Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job
Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job

To Tony’s relief most people this year did the right thing and swum between the flags even though they were pushed further up the beach.

This bronzed, buff veteran is confident the beach will recover from being chewed up by the storms of June.

“It will come back, but it will be over a long period,” Tony says.

Generally Tony describes Tathra as a pretty safe beach.

“Down in the corner we normally have a reasonably sized sandbar, and even though we do get north-east winds that blows in a bit of a swell, we get a southerly change and the swell only lasts for maybe one of two days and it levels out,” Tony explains.

“As you get further round towards the Country Club or further up the beach it’s a lot more dangerous, down in the corner it’s usually pretty safe.”

With the days of summer starting to shorten, Tony is called south again to Melbourne and his regular job as a carpenter.

Born and bred not too far from the Bega Swimming Pool, Tony is already preparing for his 42nd Tathra summer.

“We’ll be back up at Easter, followed by the yearly lifeguard testing in December.

“You jump in the water, it’s sunny, it’s clear, you have a swim around, and you get out, the salt water, it’s a fantastic feeling,” Tony says.

 

 

Disclaimer: Author is currently contracted to Tathra Chamber of Commerce 

 

 

New Merimbula priest gives Bible a 2017 perspective

Bishop Stuart Robinson oversees the ordination of 14 priest, including Merimbula's Anthony Frost.
Bishop Stuart Robinson oversees the ordination of 14 priests, including Merimbula’s Anthony Frost.

One of the Anglican church’s newest priests is Merimbula’s, Anthony Frost.

Reverend Frost first put roots down in the Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish in February 2016. His theological studies had elevated him to the role of Deacon and a job based out of St Clements Church under Reverend Lou Oakes.

Towards the end of last year, Rev Frost was ready to take on higher orders and was ordained a Priest alongside thirteen of his comrades at St Saviour’s Cathedral in Goulburn.

Moving from Deacon to Priest allows Rev Frost to more fully take part in the key sacraments of the Anglican Church, in particular, holy communion and confession.

Despite the fact that church attendance is falling in Australia, down from 44% in 1950 to 17% in 2007, Rev Frost comes to his new job with a modern sense of purpose.

“We are needed on the ground,” Rev Frost says.

“There is a strong movement [from within the Anglican Chruch] to deploy ordained people into the community.”

This son of a butcher was raised in Newcastle, New South Wales. On the day I met him he proudly displayed the red and blue socks of his hometown’s footy team hidden under his traditional black and white priests ‘uniform’.

Rev Frost turns 50 in the middle of 2017 and comes to this new career with 24 years in early education behind him, having been a classroom teacher in communities around Mount Druitt, Wagga Wagga, and Canberra.

“I believed teaching was my calling,” Rev Frost says.

“It was an area [profession] where men weren’t working and I felt I needed to do my bit to redress that imbalance.”

Reflecting on his early church experiences Rev Frost remembers his ‘Nan’ taking him to church; he was baptised an Anglican even though his parents weren’t churchgoers.

The Rev Anthony Frost
The Rev Anthony Frost

But, “One day she [Nan] was pulled up for smoking outside the church and she never went back,” Rev Frost laughs.

It wasn’t until his late teens, under his own steam, and with his own spiritual needs, that Rev Frost started a journey that saw him take on religious studies and increasing church responsibilities as a layperson into adulthood.

The journey escalated on March 17, 2011 – St Patrick’s Day, at St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra.

“I was listening to a talk on the pioneering days of the Anglican Church in the Canberra – Goulburn Diocese,” Rev Frost remembers.

“Halfway through the talk, I felt two strong but gentle hands underneath my shoulder blades, gently pushing me forward out of my seat.

“At that point, I knew I was being called to ordained ministry,” he says.

Four years of theological studies and part-time church work followed, ahead of his first full-time church gig in the Bega Valley, covering the nine centres of the Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish.

Now as a newly ordained priest, Rev Frost says he is looking to use his theological studies to contextualise the word and work of God for a modern time.

Challenging preconceived ideas about Christian faith, including the Bible, is important to Rev Frost.

“Scripture needs to be reviewed and looked at from different perspectives,” he says.

The twice-married father points to some of the passages of the Old Testament that appear to condone violence and the exclusion of certain people.

“Jesus is with us here today, through the church and people of faith,” Rev Frost says.

“He is guiding us to discern what is of God, what is loving, and what is not.

“We have so many examples around us now of what is not of God.” he says.

Rev Frost suggests the degradation of the environment and the exclusion of people based on religion and lifestyle are two examples of ‘what is not of God’ in 2017.

Click play to hear Rev Anthony Frost speak with Ian Campbell for the About Regional podcast:


 

With the community celebrations that followed his ordination in late November behind him, Rev Frost says he is getting on with the job of meeting the needs of his community, particularly looking for unmet needs.

Although still relevant, in an affluent town like Merimbula responding to need means something other than the traditional charity work of religious people.

“There can be a different kind of poverty,” Rev Frost explains.

“Where people have a deep need or yearning that’s not being met because of their affluence.

“Often the people who are not so well off in terms of material possessions, are actually more spiritually wealthy than those who are materially wealthy,” Rev Frost says.

As one of the Anglican Church’s newest priests, this Newcastle Knights fan believes he has been blessed by a calling to this wonderful part of the world.

“It’s a little bit of heaven on earth, and I look forward to working with this community and engaging with other organisations and individuals,” Rev Frost says.

Yellow buoys off Merimbula and Malua Bay listening for sharks

Shark listening station - Malua Bay, supplied DPI.
Shark listening station – Malua Bay, supplied DPI.

The sapphire waters of the Far South Coast naturally draw your attention – forever changing, forever surprising.

This summer, just below Batemans Bay at Maula Bay and further south at Merimbula, a tall yellow buoy beyond the last line of breakers will catch your eye as your bum finds that sweet spot in the sand.

It’s a Shark Listening Station or VR4G, installed during November before the place filled up with holiday makers.

The one off Main Beach Merimbula brings the number of listening stations along the New South Wales coastline to twenty, all designed to give our feeble bodies the jump on these ‘monsters of the deep.’

Other locations include Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Bondi, Byron Bay, Ballina and Lennox Head.

The Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says these satellite-linked VR4G receivers record the presence of tagged sharks swimming within 500 metres of the listening station.

“Information on the movement of tagged sharks captured on the VR4Gs goes straight to a satellite and is then instantly sent to mobile devices via Twitter and the SharkSmart App.” he explains.

There are 114 White Sharks and 88 Bull Sharks that have been tagged by either the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) or CSIRO. These are the beasties that give themselves away when they swim near one of these hi-tech posts.

“Whilst we can’t tag every shark, the new listening stations will enhance bather safety by alerting beachgoers and authorities when a tagged shark is in the area,” Mr Constance says.

“They provide beachgoers with information and knowledge to help them assess their risk of a shark encounter before they hit the water.”

Shark at Bournda Island December 25,from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Shark at Bournda Island December 25, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

The technology is one component of the NSW Government’s $16m Shark Management Strategy and follows a run of fatal and near-fatal shark attacks in northern NSW during 2016.

Other parts of the strategy being seen locally include regular DPI helicopter patrols running between Kiama and Eden, and soon a new $33,000 viewing platform overlooking Pambula Beach.

Since the aerial patrols and listening stations became active seven local shark sightings have been reported to the Shark Smart App – all south of the Bega River mouth at Tathra.

The first alert on December 17 pointed to four Whaler Sharks near Bar Beach Merimbula, and two unidentified 2 metre sharks off Pambula Beach – both spotted by the DPI aerial team.

The most recent alert was sent out on December 29 with the helicopter reporting up to eight juvenile Bronze Whaler Sharks off Main Beach Merimbula.

In all cases, nearby authorities were notified and it was assessed that there was little threat to swimmers and surfers – sometimes simply because there was no one in the water.

If there is deemed to be a risk to people, lifesavers on the beach or the aerial patrol have the capacity to clear the water of swimmers.

Looking further north to the Shoalhaven, 13 shark alerts have been trigger during the same time frame around Ulladulla and Jervis Bay. On the Central and North Coasts, where there is a more intensive monitoring effort, 60 alerts have been issued taking in beaches between Lake Macquarie and Tweed Heads.

Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart
Unidentified sharks spotted 1km north of Tathra Beach on December 19, from https://twitter.com/NSWSharkSmart

Broulee’s Andrew Edmunds, Director, Far South Coast Surf Life Saving says his organisation welcomes anything that helps lifesavers manage risk and allows people to make informed choices.

“Sharks are not the biggest risk to swimmers though,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Since the start of summer, we have had 18 deaths in New South Wales waters, none have been a result of shark interaction,” Mr Edmunds says.

“Unpatrolled beaches, rips and strong currents, not wearing life-jackets, unsupervised pools, ponds, and dams – these are the biggest risks.”

Mr Edmunds is hoping the listening stations might ease people’s concern about sharks.

“People will start to see sharks in the natural environment as normal,” he says.

“The frequency of the alerts will increase over time as more sharks are tagged, people might start to realise how commonplace sharks are.”

Shark Smart alerts as there appear on Twitter
Shark Smart alerts as they appear on Twitter

The yellow VR4G units sit high in the water and have been somewhat of a curiosity to beachgoers this summer with lifesavers taking regular questions.

“Stand-up paddle boarders have also been going out and back to investigate,” Mr Edmunds says.

The odds of being attacked or killed by a shark are said to be 1 in 3,748,067, despite the regularity of their presence in our environment that Mr Edumnds points to.

Those long odds however, are easily challenged by our active imaginations, fed by frequent news reports from the North Coast pointing to surfers bitten or killed and White Sharks snared in drum lines.

The tall yellow buoys that now sit out the front of Merimbula and Malua Bay not only highlight the physical presence of sharks but also our fragile minds when it comes to these creatures.