Legislation will be introduced to the State Parliament today to fast-track a six-month meshing trial, and the Opposition has said it will provide in principle support for the shark-net bill.
The program will see nets installed at Lighthouse, Sharpes and Shelly beaches at Ballina, Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head and the Evans Head main beach.
The New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the locations were chosen after a process of community consultation.
“The number and the location was certainly something that has been shaped by the community feedback from the north coast,” he said.
“We’ve landed on five, that’s what we’ll start with, and they’re definitely going into areas where the community has said they want them.”
Shark nets have been in place between Newcastle and Wollongong for more than 50 years, but the
Government initially resisted calls for a rollout on the north coast.
That changed last month, when there were three shark attacks in as many weeks in the Byron-Ballina area.
Mr Blair said the meshing would work in conjunction with other measures already rolled out as part of the Government’s $16-million shark mitigation program.
“We haven’t stopped our aerial surveillance, we haven’t stopped our … smart drumlines and tagging program,” he said.
“There is a suite of measures that we are doing; this is just one of them.
“We know that there is not just one thing that can eliminate the risk.”
Ballina councillor and Australian Seabird Rescue volunteer Keith Williams said the nets would do little to improve surfer safety.
“Five nets in 50 kilometres, it’s a way to make people feel that something is being done rather than actually keeping people safe,” he said.
“One net on Seven Mile Beach is going to do nothing to keep people safe.
“We are going to need people on the headlands, on the beaches, keeping an eye out.”
Craig Ison, who survived a great white attack at Evans Head last year, was also sceptical about the meshing program.
“I’m a supporter of barriers for people who are swimming, like nippers and stuff like that,” he said.
“Short, sort of squared-off, walled-off barriers, not netting for the surfers, because that won’t work up here.”
But the general manager of the Richmond Valley Council, Vaughan Macdonald, said the community would welcome the prospect of a netting trial at Evans Head.
“Yes it’s a trial, yes we’re not all convinced that nets are the best thing, but let’s get them in place and see if we can reduce the risk so that we can continue to swim at main beach,” he said.
The president of the Le-Ba Boardriders Club, Don Munro, has led the campaign to have nets installed.
“We’ve been pushing hard for proven protective measures,” he said.
“The one that was the most obvious was the nets that have been in place in Queensland and New South Wales.
“A bit over 50 years in Queensland and I think it’s 79 years in New South Wales, since 1937 when they first installed them, and in that time there’s been one fatality.”