Safety concerns for Gerroa surf schools

 SAFETY: Jay Ruming, Cr Neil Reilly, Cr Mark Westhoff, Natt Keene and Roy Schmidt met at Crooked River to view the existing signage. Photo: supplied.
SAFETY: Jay Ruming, Cr Neil Reilly, Cr Mark Westhoff, Natt Keene and Roy Schmidt met at Crooked River to view the existing signage. Photo: supplied.

Residents and community representatives have called for boating safety signage to be renewed and improved at the mouth of the Crooked River, Gerroa.

Kiama Council has approved the use of the beach for operation of three surf schools during March, May, June and July.

Recently the dangers of mixing boats with other beach users has been highlighted in community debate.

On May 31 Illawarra boating safety officer Jay Ruming joined councillors Neil Reilly and Mark Westhoff, Natt Keene from the Gerringong Hotel Fishing Club, and Roy Schmidt president of the Gerroa Community Association, at Crooked River to view the existing signage.

The council has approved new consent conditions for surf schools which require an operator to remove patrons from the water when vessels are launched or retrieved from the beach.

The charted vessel launching and retrieval facility is remembered fondly as a favourite launching zone by local fisher families.

Gerringong resident Natt Keene, who has a coxswain's grade two licence for commercial vessel operations, spoke at a recent council meeting.

Mr Keene said inexperienced surf school students magnified the chance of swimmers coming into contact with vessels.

"I have been a first respondent to a swimmer being struck by a vessel and I don't want to see it happen again," Mr Keene said.

"Both the NSW Water Police and NSW Maritime were surprised the surf school would be allowed to happen."

Concerned resident Jay Ruming, in a letter addressed to the council on April 10, said surf school operation in the area would create further risk of a clash between vessels and people.

Cr Reilly and Cr Westhoff agreed to assist in signage improvement to make the area safer.

Including the sign upgrade it was proposed additional signage at the foot bridge and the boat ramp could be installed to cover all access points to the area.