WYONG councillor Greg Best has revealed the personal experiences that have helped to reaffirm his view that better protection was a must for rock fishers on local rock platforms.
Cr Best told the Lakes Mail he had been smashed by waves on a rock platform.
“I’ve been washed off rocks while surfing, and that was catastrophic even though I was wearing a wetsuit and was prepared to go into the water, so I can only imagine what it’s like for a rock fisherman who is fully clothed and holding a fishing rod,” he said.
On another occasion he witnessed the shortcomings of attempting to throw a flotation ring – also called ‘angel ring’ – to a person struggling in the water off the rocks.
“I’ve gone through the process of trying to launch a flotation ring off a rock platform to save a life, and it’s nearly impossible to get it to fly the distance you need it to get to that person,” he said.
“In fact, it can encourage the panicked individual to swim closer to the rocks.”
Cr Best said the stark reality of the death toll – 16 lives lost on a 3-kilometre section of local coast in eight years – was the overwhelming motivation for his push to improve safety.
In December, Cr Best and Cr Adam Troy successfully moved a five-part motion seeking council’s support for a series of measures.
These included calling on National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to trial shock signage at deadly rock fishing locations inside Munmorah State Conservation Area.
NPWS confirmed a trial of the shock signage would be held locally (see story p1).
The NPWS announcement followed news last month that the state government was to introduce new legislation that would require rock fishers at high-risk locations to wear life jackets.
Councillors Best welcomed the legislation, and said making life jackets mandatory was the most important step that could be taken to save lives.
“They’ve never pulled a dead person out of the water who was wearing a life jacket. What does that tell you?” Cr Best said.
The message is: ‘Get a jacket on your back, and come back’, he said.