Lifesavers will again be out on patrol over the Christmas and New Year period.
Lifesavers will again be out on patrol over the Christmas and New Year period. Cathy Adams

Lifeguards prepared to protect region's record

CLARENCE Valley lifeguards are taking steps to ensure the good safety record of the region's seven patrolled beaches are maintained during what is shaping to be a very busy summer.

Local lifeguard supervisor Greg Wyllie said despite drowning tragedies occurring in Australia over the past few weeks, he's confident his team can maintain a high record of safety in the water.

"To be honest, the record here is pretty good," he said.

"In the past 20 years we had less than five drownings, with most of those at unpatrolled beaches.

"It's a very good record and we're working hard to keep it that way."

Mr Wyllie said the team of lifeguards and lifesavers on the seven patrolled beaches in the Clarence were ready for anything the summer could throw at them.

"They're young, energetic and have done all the latest first-aid training," he said.

"They're good at reading beach and surf conditions, which is also part of the lifeguard training."

He said signage at local beaches had been designed to convey a multi-cultural safety message.

"It's important we do because we get a lot of visitors from overseas who don't have experience in the surf," he said.

"We also have sandwich boards out at each beach every day telling people about the tides and what the surf is doing."

Mr Wyllie said Clarence beaches had also proved to be shark safe in recent year.

"I don't know what it is, but the beaches here don't seem to have the shark action you can get north and south of here," he said.

"There's been attacks at Evans Head to the north and south at Coffs Harbour, but the sharks seem to miss us."

Meanwhile, UNSW scientist Rob Brander said the recent drowning figures compared to the low prevalence of shark attacks are a wake-up call for politicians spending up on shark deterrence.

Mr Brander, an associate professor at the university, has been critical of the massive spend on shark deterrence.

"This weekend a 14-year-old boy and a 49-year-old woman drowned in rip currents on NSW beaches," he said.

"In the past two weeks, an 11-year-old boy from Canberra, a 15-year-old girl visiting from India and a 21-year-old male from Brisbane drowned in rip currents in Australian surf.

"Can you imagine the response if five people had been killed by sharks over the same period?

"No doubt the ensuing outcry would result in even more debate and financial resources invested in a problem that typically results in only one human fatality a year in Australia.

"Yet every year about 20 people, probably more, drown in strong, narrow, seaward flowing rip currents that are ubiquitous on our beaches.

"The trauma experienced by victims' families and all those involved in these drownings is extreme and no different to fatal shark attacks, yet millions of dollars have been devoted to the shark problem."

Mr Wyllie said shark deterrence was just another water safety issue.

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