Volunteers say surf school in Zone A unsafe

MAIN: Seven Mile Beach draws a crowd in summer. Inset: Gerringong SLSC president Richard Payne says a surf school close to a boat launching area is unsafe.

MAIN: Seven Mile Beach draws a crowd in summer. Inset: Gerringong SLSC president Richard Payne says a surf school close to a boat launching area is unsafe.

Opposition to surf schools operating at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach over summer isn't about NIMBYism, it's about safety, according to three Gerringong community groups.

Werri Beach Board Riders, the Gerringong Hotel Fishing Club and the Gerringong Surf Life Saving Club all oppose surf schools operating in "Zone A" of Seven MIle Beach over summer, representatives say.

Their biggest concern is the proximity of Zone A to a boat launching area that has traffic from both the fishing club and the surf life saving club.

Nate Keen, of the fishing club, said boaters took great care when exiting the river mouth during the busy summer months, but a surf school in the area would increase the likelihood of a collision.

He said in a worst-case scenario, parents supervising young children could easily pull them out of the way - something a surf lesson with tens of children and one or two instructors couldn't do.

"I don't care about birds, I don't care about car parks, safety should override all of that," he said.

"An inexperienced boater could easily flip trying to avoid kids. I've been a first responder to boat collisions before, and this really concerns me."

Richard Payne, president of Gerringong Surf Life Saving Club, echoed Mr Keen's worries.

"A huge fear of mine is mixing a boat launching area and a surf school," he said.

"We're the ones who get the call [if there's a collision]. It's a risk I'm not sure is worth taking, especially when, in my opinion, the conditions in Zone B and C are just as good [for learning to surf]."

Allan Farrell, of Werri Beach Board Riders, said the club ran a surf competition for children aged three to thirteen around Zone B for the past 27 years, and never had an issue with conditions.

"We have about 40 kids get involved each year," he said.

"We're big believers in people getting in the water, and we believe if there is a business running in Zone A it reduces the ability of families to use that area.

"I understand the concern for kids who do't have family members that surf, but there is Zone B and C to provide the opportunity to learn.

Mr Payne said he objected to the commercialisation of a "community hub".

"The great thing about beaches in Australia is that they're free and give so much joy," he said.

"It's unfair for someone to profit off an area of the beach to the detriment of the local community.

"The club doesn't usually get involved in these kinds of issues, but we feel strongly about the safety and community amenity aspects.

"And both problems can be solved by the business going a couple of hundred metres down the beach."