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Angry residents take on Bega Council staff over Bar Beach car park closure

Genevieve Jacobs 16 April 2020
Bar Beach at Merimbula

The walk from Rotary Park, just above Spencer Park to Bar Beach at Merimbula. Photo: Merimbula Visitor Information Centre.

A number of residents have vented their anger following Bega Valley Council’s decision to close the car park at Bar Beach, Merimbula after advice from South Coast Police District officers.

Despite clear directions to stay at home, there were anecdotal reports of large numbers of people in the area over Easter. The lakeside beach is loved for its views and sheltered aspect and is a popular family recreation spot throughout the year.

A spokesman from Bega Valley Council says their call centre has been fielding phone calls since the decision was made public and called for calm from residents.

“The closure of the car park at Bar Beach was a decision of the Bega Valley Local Emergency Management Committee, not our call centre staff”, the spokesman said.

Bar Beach was identified as a place where COVID-19 restrictions were at risk of being breached after residents and patrolling police officers raised concerns around the number of people in the area across the long weekend.

While police said that elsewhere in the Bega Valley members of the public had been cooperative, they described a “stubborn attitude” on the part of a few that merited further action.

“My officers spoke to a number of people at Bar Beach over the Easter break, reinforcing the government’s directive around physical distancing, the size of gatherings and the need to stay at home,” Police Chief Inspector Peter Volf said

“There is no excuse for not knowing the advice and while I appreciate the stresses and frustrations around life right now, we are not out of the woods yet.

“We can’t risk a break out of this virus and the behaviour my officers witnessed over the weekend at Bar Beach is a threat to the wider community. We needed to draw a line in the sand”.

The decision was endorsed by the Bega Valley Local Emergency Management Committee, which includes representatives from Council, NSW Health, police, ambulance, SES and other agencies.

“Bar Beach will remain closed for the rest of the school holidays,” Council’s director of assets and operations Anthony McMahon said. “Given the cooperation we’ve seen at most other Sapphire Coast beaches, we don’t see a need to take action elsewhere.”

Surfers and swimmers can still access the water via Main Beach and Mitchies Jetty and both Pambula Beach and Short Point are also open. Police will continue to patrol popular locations and officers will be talking to members of the public to share advice and answer questions.

Police have reminded members of the public that while people are allowed out of their homes to exercise for short periods, physical distancing measures must be observed. These include staying 1.5 metres apart and not gathering in groups larger than two unless it’s your immediate family.

If you are concerned about health advice being ignored in other locations in the Bega Valley you can call local police on 6492 9999.

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