11 September 2019

Drones join contracted lifeguards, surf clubs in summer beach patrols

| Ian Bushnell
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Contracted lifeguards will again patrol the Bega shire’s beaches over the summer. Photo: Supplied.

Far South Coast beaches will again be patrolled by lifeguards this summer, with eight locations covered and for the first time an eye in the sky at two of them with the deployment of drones to provide shark alerts.

Bega Valley Shire Council, which has the largest stretch of coastline of any NSW local government area, has again contracted the Australian Lifeguard Service to provide life guards at the shire’s beaches.

Tathra and Pambula beaches are among 18 locations across the State that are part of the Department of Primary Industry’s shark surveillance program, which runs until February and follows trials held on the North Coast last summer.

There will be two drones at each of the beaches’ surf clubs, with contracted lifeguards and club volunteers launching the drones at least once every hour during patrols.

The primary use is to keep beachgoers safe from sharks, but they will also be used to gather data on the movements of sharks and other animals in the sea.

Twenty local surf club members attended the DPI and Surf Lifesaving Australia’s drone training course on 8 and 9 December.

Bega Valley Shire Council’s Aquatic Facilities Coordinator, Nic Hoynes said that due to the specific surf skills, experience and resources required to provide surf lifeguard services, it remained the best option to contract this work out to professional lifeguards.

“From Council’s perspective we see this service as absolutely vital to ensure our most popular beaches can be safely experienced and enjoyed,” Mr Hoynes said.

“It is also extremely important to highlight the wonderful work that the three volunteer surf lifesaving clubs – who provide lifesaving services at Bermagui (Horseshoe Bay), Pambula Beach and Tathra on weekends and public holidays undertake for the community.”

ALS recently announced that they will provide the Tathra February patrol extension for 2019 at no charge in recognition of the previous efforts by the Tathra Chamber of Commerce to provide this service and to assist the Tathra community after the fires this year.

ALS’s 2017-18 report recorded 168,760 attendances over the six-week contracted patrol period (up 23,000 on the same time last season).

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on the RiotACT.

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