Puckeys Beach report 'under lock and key'

A senior Illawarra surf lifesaver says a new Wollongong City Council report on unpatrolled beaches supports his call for a patrol tower at Puckeys Beach.

The Coastal Public Safety Risk Assessment report suggested it was "more good luck than good management" that more deaths had not occurred at the popular swimming spot.

It also pointed out that an "elevated surveillance position" would be beneficial.

North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club veteran John Wren said it was "incredible" there was only one copy "under lock and key" at Surf Life Saving Illawarra headquarters.

"You cannot photocopy it, it's the property of the council and it doesn't seem any way shape or form that it's going to be disseminated to the general public or to the relevant bodies concerned," Mr Wren said. "[It] amazes me the general public, the lifesaving fraternity, and any other stakeholders, ratepayers, etc., cannot have a look at that report because it's being held under such strict conditions.

"I'd love to have a copy of this report, I'd love to have a copy of it and go through it with other volunteers and members of the lifesaving community but unfortunately we can't," he said.

Roving patrols are conducted at Puckeys every 30 minutes by a lifeguard or lifesaver on a quad bike or ATV.

"By the time he gets back there two people could be dead," Mr Wren said.

He has long campaigned for a patrol tower at Stuart Park that would allow lifeguards to keep watch on Puckeys.

A volunteer lifesaver at North Wollongong for 40 years,

Mr Wren said he was driven in

his campaign purely by the

desire to prevent more deaths.

"This is not ego-driven, I just hate to see people die in an area that could be effectively monitored."

Surf Life Saving Illawarra director Ian Lee has briefly reviewed the report and said it had raised the idea of CCTV cameras for Puckeys, which he described as an admission of a problem.

"If we think that's important enough to do that then I think it's important enough to have constant surveillance with a professional lifeguard or lifesaver there," he said.

"If we have to have someone sit there [watching] a screen I think it's evidence enough that we need to be watching it all the time."

Mr Lee said he understood Mr Wren's concerns about access and didn't see an issue with club members being able to photocopy sections of the document.

Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association spokesman Ken Holloway said the report essentially revealed information that was also well known.

Just last week Mr Holloway labelled a $320,000 statewide beach risk assessment a waste, arguing the money could have been better spent employing more council lifeguards, or on additional swim schools teaching children to swim, float and survive in the water.

Wollongong City Council yesterday described the document as a "reference tool" and stressed no outcomes had been decided.

Its purpose was to guide council on "identifying risks" at each unpatrolled beach.

A council spokesman said a tower for Puckeys was raised in consultation with stakeholders but stressed no recommendation had been made.

The report was available to the public on request, he said and would be discussed at a briefing of surf clubs on Tuesday.

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