Surfers make waves over Port beach access

A group of passionate Illawarra surfers have embarked on a determined campaign to save their favourite surf break.They are outraged by plans to erect security gates outside Port Kembla Sewage Treatment Plant, which would restrict public access to "Oilies" beach.The breakers are a popular hideaway for experienced surfers. One of the campaign organisers, Brendan Leo, said the gates would hamper access to the covert location, which he said was utilised by a cross-section of the community. The changes would now mean a 1km walk to the beach area."It's not just the surfers involved - there are fishermen, walkers, cyclists, photographers. Many people from the community will be affected," Mr Leo said."It's the most accessible piece of foreshore in Australia - at the moment you can basically drive right up to it. "What that means for the elderly fishermen is they don't have to walk a couple of kilometres to cast a line," he added. Mr Leo said that once the gate was installed, the Oilies breakers would only be accessible by walking via Wollongong Golf Course. He felt that an agreement for continuing access from Port Kembla Rd would be more practical."I really do feel that the broader community will be missing out if access is cut," he said."We think if everyone sat down and talked we could come up with a compromise that would suit both sides."We're more than happy to co-exist with heavy industry." Port Kembla Port Corporation chief executive Dom Figliomeni said the public would still have access to Oilies via another route, adding the installation of the gate in November was essential for port security and community safety."It just means they'll have to walk a bit further," he said."We're not trying to cut the people out but with occupational health and safety we have to be aware of the risks."We've done an assessment and one of the options we looked at was a fenced walkway, but if an incident did happen I know who they would blame."

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