Tweed Shire Councillor Reece Byrnes with a drone camera unit at Kingscliff. Photo: Scott Powick, Newscorp
Tweed Shire Councillor Reece Byrnes with a drone camera unit at Kingscliff. Photo: Scott Powick, Newscorp

Shark attack death shows ‘urgent’ need for drones

A TWEED councillor believes the 'time for talk' is over when it comes to shark mitigation on our coast.

Reece Byrnes has put forward a motion proposing Tweed Shire Council fill a void left by the end of the State Government's DPI drone program trial and purchase six drones to loan to local surf life saving clubs.

Jut seven days after a shark mitigation drone trial ended on the Tweed Coast, Tugun man Rob Pedretti was killed by a great white shark while out surfing at Kingscliff earlier this month.

The tragedy rocked the community and Cr Byrnes claims fear has left noticeable visibly less people visiting the region's beaches.

Both State Member for Tweed Geoff Provest and councillor James Owen have separately contacted the NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall advocating for reinstating and expansion of the trial as well as other shark mitigation measures.

However there is yet to be a State Government response.

<<READ MORE HERE: Tweed leaders rally for funding to prevent another tragedy>>

Cr Byrnes motion, to be heard at a council meeting in August, includes action points to "freely loans these drones to Surf Life Saving Clubs within the Tweed Shire including Fingal, Salt, Cabarita Beach and Cudgen Surf Life Saving Clubs for their use in shark mitigation/detection and other general beach and surf safety measures".

He also proposed council wrote to Surf Life Saving NSW seeking to enter into partnership with for a 12-month trial of these six drones across our coastal zone as well as reviving the

Tweed Beach Safety Liaison Committee.

"The recent tragic shark attack off the beach at Salt highlights the urgency for the purchase of these drones," Cr Byrnes said.

"When it comes to our safety in the water, the time for talk is over. These clubs need drone technology to keep us safe."

He said local surf club members had expressed frustration about the previous drone trial closing and wanted to see urgent action.

"The guys who save our lives and protect us on the beach feel more confident in doing that role with drones. It gives them an eye in the sky, you can see to help someone stuck in a rip, or see a shark - if you save one life, its worth it," Cr Byrnes said.

However Cr Owen, a surf life saver for eight years, said he believed the NSW Government should be footing the bill.

"Those drones cost $27,000 each," he said.

"I want to know where the money will come from, its not in our budget and doesn't come under our core responsibilities.

"It's more than just the drones, it's the pilots and training. You have to have a comprehensive program and approach it strategically. At the moment if you brought a drone for every surf club they would sit there unused because they would have to train pilots up and have them available everyday.

"I'm not sure this has been properly thought through or is the best approach to what we need."

Mr Provest expressed similar concerns about training and liaising with SLS NSW about the specialty drones used for the flyovers.

He said he was still in discussions with the minister advocating for the cause.

"I think it's (drones as shark mitigation measures) a very good thing but I think people using our beaches have to understand usually drones are in patrolled areas. We have 35km of beaches in the shire, so there is a lot of unsupervised beaches," he said.

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