Mayors spooked by cost of rock fishing lifejacket laws

DOUBLE TROUBLE: A rock fisherman, sans flotation device, getting a couple of lines wet off the coal loader at Port Kembla on Friday. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: A rock fisherman, sans flotation device, getting a couple of lines wet off the coal loader at Port Kembla on Friday. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS.

New laws allowing councils to “opt-in” to mandatory lifejackets for rock fishing have been slammed by two of the Illawarra’s coastal mayors, who said the State Government was dodging the cost.

Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant announced on Friday that councils can choose whether they want laws that demand rock fishers wear life jackets in their area. Councils that opt in will receive up to $30,000 to help with the changes.

But Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba both said they were concerned the laws would be too expensive to enforce.

“It’s just typical of state governments – they introduce something and then throw it to councils to apply it or not, which means it becomes a cost to council to manage it,” Ms Saliba said.

“I think it should be mandatory for all rock fishermen to wear life jackets, but I don’t think it should be councils that have the responsibility to manage it.

“That should be the state government and Fisheries.”

Mr Bradbery agreed. He said each council ranger costs more than $100,000 for a year, and more would be needed to enforce the new lifejacket rules.

“On the face of it, it sounds good,” Mr Bradbery said. 

“But we have 60km of coastline if you take the lake into consideration. 

Mr Bradbery also said rangers could run into difficulty as they did not have the power to arrest people who refuse to co-operate, and may have to call in the police.

“I’m a believer that you don’t make a law you can’t enforce,” he said. “Our rangers do not have the same powers that police have to demand ID and enforce it.”

The latest stage of rock fishing safety measures follows a year-long trial in Randwick local government area.

“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.”

In fact it is not consistent with lifejacket rules for boats, which are statewide. Nor is it consistent with fishing regulations, which are enforced by Fisheries officers.