THE HERALD'S OPINION: Latest Frazer Park drownings lead to more calls for action

THE loss of another two lives from the notorious Frazer Park stretch of coast, south of Swansea, reinforces once again the dangers that confront the unwary on our rocks and beaches.

We are a great outdoors nation, and nobody realistically wants the state intervening more than the absolute minimum when it comes rules and regulations for coastal recreation.

But the annual toll of drownings at the state’s well-known danger spots only adds to the pressures on law-makers to “do something” about these all-too-frequent, and all-too-expensive, fatalities.

The question, though, is do what?

In 2015 a NSW coroner recommended mandatory lifejackets for rock fishermen and “shock signs” at hazard areas like Snapper Point at Frazer Park after an inquest into the drowning deaths of nine fishermen.

In late 2016, the Baird government initiated a 12-month trial of mandatory life-jackets in the Randwick area, choosing it because it had the most number of drownings of any local government area.

In the wake of the latest fatalities, Swansea MP Yasmin Catley wants the trial extended to a three-kilometre section of Lake Munmorah coast, including Frazer Park, that has claimed 17 or more lives in the past decade.

Given the obvious danger that lurks on this stretch of coast, the mandatory life-jacket call is not unreasonable. Signs warning fishers of the drowning dangers are already in place, yet for whatever reason (language difficulties may be one) many of the people the Newcastle Herald encountered there after the latest drowning were either unaware – or perhaps worse, unconcerned – about the propensity of rogue waves to pluck people from the rocks.

Sadly, it is not always possible to save idiots from themselves, but if the drowning rate is not brought down somehow in the next few years, the calls to fence off the more dangerous sections of Frazer Park coast may become difficult to ignore.

In the meantime, it may be worth using the recreational fishing licence system to educate people about the dangers. As things stand, a fishing licence is a matter of cost only. But by creating a special licence for rock fishing – obtainable only after passing a safety knowledge test – those who take to the rocks should at least know the dangers they are facing.

And there are fatal dangers off the rocks, no matter how calm the ocean may appear.

ISSUE: 38,691.

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