3 March 2017
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: +61 2 6277 3526
Fax: +61 2 6277 5818
Dear Sir or Madam:
RE: Submission to the Senate Inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures
To give you some background, at the 2011 census there was 39274 people in the Ballina Local Government area with this number increasing at peak summer times with tourists. Ballina’s name originated from is not entirely certain. Some believe it was named directly after the Irish town of Ballina, although a more likely source is a Bundjalung word, “bullinah”, meaning “place of many oysters”.
Ballina is situated at the mouth of the Richmond River on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, and boasts some of the most beautiful surfing beaches and picturesque headlands on the east coast of Australia. With the most popular beaches being Shelly Beach which is a patrolled beach, also Lighthouse Beach, Seven Mile Beach and the Shaws Bay Lagoon. The township itself of Ballina sits on the northern bank of the Richmond River and is bordered by North Creek and a canal, in fact making Ballina an island.
We are a very active Chamber of Commerce board and consistently offer in our actions that businesses and the community are one and the same. There is no delineation between the two as anything that happens to one will have an impact on the other, as you would appreciate. We are looking to address parts ‘g’ and ‘h’ of the ‘Terms of Reference’, namely the impact of shark attacks on tourism and related industries; and any other relevant matters. As you can see from what we have given you above the importance of how this or anything water related impacts on our community are very real. What we have seen and discussed as a board has been generally the lack of communication between key stakeholders, the government and related governing bodies.
It’s not to say there has been no consultation or communication but the quality of those two in terms of our area and this issue has been lacking true depth and clarity.
By no means do we see or are we saying that we don’t all care about what has happened and what is going on with this issue. Contrary to this, we see that everyone cares deeply but we also acknowledge there is some areas we can improve.
Included in that are, it appears everyone at times works individually or in disregard of each other. We feel a more collective approach where the community is supported ongoing and not just while an incident is in focus or appears in the media would go a long way into instil more trust for us all. With respect also, this parliamentary enquiry could be seen as a continuation of this in that we only learnt of this enquiry from a phone call to our office by a local media outlet at the 11th hour. This is not to be critical of any one body or stakeholder but more give general consideration that any shark mitigation and deterrent measure needs not only get a result but equally consider what best supports the area it is to be implemented in. The Ballina area was left for quiet sometime without adequate support or measures to deal with what is a very public problem.
To give one example, the changing from a local helicopter company in favour of another non-local company to spot sharks from aerial patrols. Our Chamber made representations at the time about Air T&G and how they were both awarded and commended for their actions during and after some of our shark incidents. Often patrolling our beaches at no cost and heavily discounted cost as part of a community service for a long period of time without being asked. Only for the tender to be awarded to another company who at the time didn’t have the infrastructure or knowledge of the local company. We could be accused of a bias given that Air T&G is a member of our Chamber but this isn’t about a promotion but more about highlighting how some decisions have not been including or even considering fully what the local area is saying and to some they don’t make sense. Given that this decision and many similar actually impact again and further on a community that is already suffering from the adverse impact of a number of major incidents. Decisions like this actually draw out or delay both the healing and recovery of an area like ours.
There could have been also a more proactive role from the Government and Government agencies in the media as an ongoing support for our local community. While we appreciate the visits and support we have had we all realise that incidents like this tend to flavour people’s perception of an area. The Government could be and could have been instrumental in supporting our area further, obviously with respect to the families and the people that have been attacked, with such things as releasing the real statistics of shark attacks in Australian waters, updating the general public on what is going on with also a focus on what else the region offers to bring a balance to what people are seeing, supporting businesses impacted directly with funding, loans, advertising etc.
We also did a survey through our members in late 2015 with mainly the tourism based businesses and surf industry businesses recording and experiencing downturns. But as we have said if there is a part of any area under impact then it will affect everyone. Significantly all respondents took the time to indicate that they would like to see a “more positive coverage of the Ballina Coast & Hinterland as a holiday destination including promotion of the many other diverse offerings the region has available.”
Ongoing we would like to see both financial assistance to businesses and the town as media support in the future promotion of what is still a very great, beautiful and family business operating area. This could be done by way of a special grant to a partnership between the Ballina Shire Council and Ballina Chamber of Commerce and Industry for local and interstate media promotion around ‘where Ballina is now’ through things like https://www.discoverballina.com.au/visit/ and television.