COASTAL councils will be given the option whether or not to enforce mandatory use of life jackets for rock fishers under state government measures geared towards stemming a tide of deaths in the sport.
Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant announced on Friday that councils will be allowed to choose whether they want the rules to apply in their area. Those who opt in will receive up to $30,000.
The recommendation follows a year-long trial in Randwick local government area, after which an independent evaluator presented the government with recommended options.
“The decision to adopt the law will be one for each council,” Mr Grant said. “This is consistent with other water safety measures, including signage and lifeguard services.”
The decision to adopt the law will be one for each council.Troy Grant, NSW Minister for Emergency Services
Lifesavers hailed the new laws as an important step towards increased safety for anglers.
“We support any initiative that will help make the sport of rock fishing safer,” Surf Life Saving NSW chief executive Steven Pearce said.
But the laws have failed to win support from Swansea MP Yasmin Catley, whose electorate encompasses the notorious rock fishing stretch at Frazer Park.
Ms Catley said the legislation was lacklustre given a further eight deaths, including one at Snapper Point and another at Bar Beach’s Susan Gilmore beach, had occurred during the Sydney-based trial.
She said the government had failed to take responsibility on the issue.
“First we had a trial, then we had an extension of the trial, and now we have the government saying councils can choose whether or not they want the legislation to apply,” she said.
“The government is passing the buck back to councils to avoid having to actually make a call.”
Both Port Stephens and Newcastle councils said they would review the detail of the act before making a decision.
“It may well be the case that Newcastle City Council will use its new powers to make life jackets mandatory for rock fishing,” Newcastle City Council chief executive Jeremy Bath said.
“We will review the legislation over the coming weeks to ensure it's as straightforward as it sounds.”