Inquest into croc tragedy
IPSWICH grandmother Lynda Bennett has called for increased public awareness of the dangers of saltwater croco- diles following an inquest into the death of her 11-year-old grand-daughter.
Briony Goodsell was playing with friends in the Black Jungle Swamp at Lambell’s Lagoon, rural Darwin, when she was taken by a large saltwater crocodile on March 15 last year.
The area where the children were swimming was not widely known to be inhabited by saltwater crocs at the time, with Ms Bennett claiming authorities were to blame for allowing the reptiles to breed out of control.
Ms Bennett and her partner Bill Tottey travelled to Darwin for the two-day inquest, which concluded yesterday.
The grandparents said the inquest made it clear that the Northern Territory’s Department of Parks and Wildlife was badly underfunded.
“We feel that government departments have hedged around the problem that crocs are creating up here,” Ms Bennett said from Darwin.
“They are talking about a population of between 100,000 to 150,000 crocs in the waterways in the area – and that’s just saltwater crocs. Then you’ve got a three-person crocodile management team which is covering that huge, densely populated croc area.”
Ms Bennett said the inquest heard that Parks and Wildlife officers were aware of the presence of crocodiles in the area before Briony was taken.
She said public awareness, including increased warning signage, was paramount.
The Northern Territory News this week reported that Parks and Wildlife executive director Graham Phelps told the inquest that his department had been given extra funding for traps and a new boat, but not for additional staff.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett signed a five-year crocodile management plan last September, which included a $140,000 public awareness campaign and 20 new crocodile traps.
The inquest’s findings are expected to be made public in seven weeks.