Surf Life Saving Queensland is rolling out low-light camera technology at Surfers Paradise from this weekend in a bid to ramp up beach safety ahead of Schoolies Week and the peak summer months.
While the not-for-profit group currently monitors beach usage and surf conditions at a number of beaches across the state through its network of 33 coastal cameras, this will be the first time in the organisation’s history that it will employ the new technology to monitor activity after-dark.
But Surf Life Saving Queensland’s Chief Operating Officer George Hill ESM stressed it wasn’t a green light for people to go swimming at night.
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“It’s really important to understand that we’re not going to be patrolling or monitoring Surfers Paradise 24/7 during this initial stage, nor are we encouraging anyone to enter the water at night or outside of designated patrol hours,” he said.
“But, we’re hoping this will give us an additional advantage when it comes to saving lives and proactively preventing incidents and injuries in the years to come,” he said.
The new technology comes after Surf Life Saving Queensland recently identified Surfers Paradise as a particularly high-risk coastal blackspot – with eight drownings in the past ten years, all of which occurred at night or outside of patrol hours.
“Initially, we won’t have lifesavers sitting there monitoring the beach every minute around the clock,” Mr Hill said.
“Rather, we’ll be using it in these early stages to gather further data and information about beach usage, high-risk behaviours, and any other areas where we can look to improve safety or possibly implement additional services down the track.
Mayor Tom Tate said the new system was very welcome news, but said it wasn’t a free pass for people to think they could start swimming in the ocean at night.
“My message to both locals and tourists is that it is a criminal offence to swim at night time,” he said.
“The cameras are not there for you to think someone’s watching and you can get in. This is really just a way to alert surf lifesavers to get out there and say ‘how about you get out of the water because it’s an offence’.”
He says once the trial is completed, Council and Surf Life Saving Queensland will get together to see what other resources would be useful to save lives.
“I am open to adding additional resources, but it’s got to be value for money and if the need is there.”