Gyrocopters could patrol NSW shark beaches

GYROCOPTERS may soon be patrolling the skies over North Coast beaches with the NSW Government promising $16 million over five years to keep swimmers safe from sharks.

Only four submissions were received into parliament's shark inquiry, including an appeal from gyrocopter pilot Rudy Van Drie, who has campaigned for a community-funded aerial surveillance program since 2009.

"We found nothing provides a better platform than an aircraft that is highly manoeuvrable, has diverse flight speed range and has even landed on beaches to physically remove people from the ocean, with a large shark lurking nearby," he said.

"The concept is to get volunteer organisations such as surf lifesaving and coastal patrol ... and even rural fire services to have autonomous air support being provided in a similar manner to surf lifesaving volunteers running inflatable rubber boats."

Mr Van Drie said gyrocopters were safe and ran at about the same cost as the average car.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair confirmed up to $3.5 million had been set aside for an eye in the sky program as part of a $7.7 million trial of new technologies and coastal surveillance.

"What's more, we are proud to be the first jurisdiction anywhere in the world to adopt an integrated approach toward keeping our beaches safe," he said.

The government will establish 20 listening stations at known shark attack hotspots across the state, including 10 between Tweed Heads and Forster.

Locations of tagged sharks will be transmitted from the stations to beachgoers' mobile phones in real-time through the new SharkSmart app.

Two beaches on the North Coast will also be trial sites for shark nets.

The funding includes a $1.3 million package for research and to expand the tagging program already underway.

The inquiry received a submission from Ballina veterinarian and mariner Dr Peter Kerkenezov, who urged the government to rethink its plan to bring shark nets to the North Coast and questioned the ethics of tagging.

"It appears this act of veterinary science is not being performed by licensed veterinary surgeons but by non-vets," he said.

"There is no real idea of how many of these sharks will die as a consequence of infection or other complications after release.

"Strong evidence exists not to interfere further with mother nature and leave the sharks alone.

"It would be catastrophic if the recent shark attacks on humans were to be the final catalyst that sends our marine ecosystems into a spiral spin to the bottom."


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