Pedro McHenry looks over Red Rock’s dangerous Little Beach and the estuary.
Pedro McHenry looks over Red Rock’s dangerous Little Beach and the estuary.

Little Beach needs warning sign

A WARNING sign occupied a prominent spot near the entrance to ‘Little Beach’ at Red Rock for about 17 years before it was unceremoniously pulled down in mid-2009.

According to Red Rock stalwart Peter ‘Pedro’ McHenry, the sign was painted by local signwriter Kevin Convery, now deceased, to warn visitors about the very real dangers of Little Beach on the outgoing tide.

“There are two rip currents that move about 25-26 knots out of the Red Bank River, one to North Beach and one round the headland to the south,” Mr McHenry, a foundation life member of the Red Rock-Corindi Surf Life Saving Club, said.

“If you’re not a keen swimmer you’ll get into trouble ... there’s also a lot of rocks and boulders there.”

Mr McHenry, a former prominent radio broadcaster, said Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) told the surf club the sign didn’t meet the Australian Standards and needed to come down.

Before locals knew it – the sign had come down just after Easter last year, causing uproar from surf club members and general residents alike.

The Daily Examiner spoke to CHCC’s lifeguard supervisor Greg Hackfath in December last year, who said signage on state reserves was the jurisdiction of the Department of Lands, who advised the council the sign should be removed because it did not use Australian Standard symbols.

“In some people’s opinion the sign was actually confusing ... some thought it directed people into the river mouth with the arrows,” Mr Hackfath said.

A spokesman for the Department of Lands, which was recently restructured into the Land and Property Management Authority, said the authority was not responsible for water safety signage and did not order the removal of any signage at Red Rock.

President of the Red Rock-Corindi SLSC, Mark Aspinall, disagreed with Mr Hackfath’s assessment that the sign was misleading – saying instead that some minor modifications could have been made rather that a complete removal.

“At least the sign made people aware there are some dangers at that beach,” Mr Aspinall said.

“The thing about Little Beach is that it’s so deceiving – it looks so appealing on the surface but there’s a very strong undertow on the outgoing tide because it’s so close to the mouth of the river.

“If people realised that if they were caught in the rip they could just go with it – stay away from the rocks – and end up at back beach. That’s the main problem – people panic and try to get out too soon and end up getting smashed on the rocks.”

Mr McHenry concurred with Mr Aspinall, saying CHCC was just trying to ‘cover its bum’ against possible litigation.

“There should be a sign there – that one warned people for years.”

Mr McHenry proposed a new graphic sign be placed on the rocks near the mouth of the river warning people not to swim on the outgoing tide but encouraged swimming on the ingoing tide.



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