Swansea MP Yasmin Catley frustrated by state government delays on mandatory life jackets for rock fishers

GRIM TASK: The search for a missing rock fisher washed into the ocean at Snapper Point in 2015. There have been 16 deaths in the area since 2008. Picture: Peter Stoop
GRIM TASK: The search for a missing rock fisher washed into the ocean at Snapper Point in 2015. There have been 16 deaths in the area since 2008. Picture: Peter Stoop

MEMBER for Swansea, Yasmin Catley, has criticised the state government for the time it’s taking to legislate to make the wearing of life jackets mandatory for rock fishers.

The government this week defended its process, saying it had commissioned an independent evaluation to review the data and feedback from its recently completed 12-month trial of mandatory life jackets for rock fishers in Sydney.

The issue is of particular concern for Ms Catley whose electorate takes in Munmorah State Conservation Area and the notorious Snapper Point, at Frazer Park.

“Snapper Point is one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline in NSW, with 16 deaths since 2008,” Ms Catley said.

“I have been calling on the Minister [Troy Grant] for almost two years now to prevent rock fishing deaths at Snapper Point by making life jackets mandatory.”

In November, 2016, the government introduced the Rock Fishing Safety Bill 2016 after three coronial inquests into rock fishing deaths.

The latest inquiry recommended the Minister for Emergency Services legislate to make the wearing of life jackets mandatory for rock fishers in NSW.

The Act involved a 12-month trial period of mandatory life jackets for rock fishers in the Randwick local government area.

The bill had support from both sides of parliament, but a number of Labor's Hunter and Central Coast MPs urged the government to consider expanding the trial to the three-kilometre stretch of coastline in the Munmorah State Conservation Area.

CONCERN: Yasmin Catley.

CONCERN: Yasmin Catley.

Since the trial began, a rock fisher drowned at Susan Gilmore Beach in Newcastle, Ms Catley said.

“We’ve had three coronial inquiries, a 12-month trial, further deaths and numerous search and rescue organisations calling for action,” she said. “The evidence is clear - mandatory life jackets for rock fishers save lives.”

A rock fisher at Snapper Point. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

A rock fisher at Snapper Point. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Scot MacDonald, said the government had been consistent and thorough.

“The NSW Government committed to a trial and we’ve done that. The NSW Government also committed to evaluate the implementation of the Act and that’s what it’s doing now,” Mr MacDonald said.

“If the legislation is going to be extended to communities such as Snapper Point, the government wants to ensure it is implemented appropriately to be successful.”

He encouraged anyone with feedback on the trial to make a submission via the government’s ‘Have your Say’ website.