COVID, News

Flags to go up on northern beaches for a swim season with a difference

THE red and yellow beach flags will be raised tomorrow to mark the start of the 2021/2022 beach season.

However, it’ll be a beach season that’s focussed on speed rather than socialising.

Over the past few months Wollongong City Council has been working with Surf Life Saving Illawarra on a plan for the beaches over summer.

Like last summer, plans are in place to support beach operations, including the monitoring of the number of beachgoers, and the mechanism to work with NSW Police and close beaches should there be too many people in attendance.

Council’s professional lifeguards will be on patrol and there to help visitors to patrolled beaches, if needed.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery is encouraging residents to use their time at the beach for exercise and a mental wellbeing check by being outdoors rather than an opportunity for a lengthy catch up with friends.

“While the current Public Health Order allows five adults who are fully vaccinated to meet up, it’s best that the beach isn’t your go-to location – there are plenty of other outdoor spaces in the city to do this,” he said.

“Plus, given the COVID-19 numbers we’re seeing in Wollongong I think we need to be really mindful that this isn’t necessarily a time for hanging around. We should be continuing to keep the time we’re out and about to an absolute minimum while we get our community’s vaccination rates up, and the number of people with COVID-19 down.’’

“For those who are headed to the beach for a swim we ask them to continue to wear masks when not in the water and to be conscious to be socially distant to each other.’’

Wollongong City Council General Manager Greg Doyle said lifeguards do an amazing job in ensuring that swimmers at patrolled beaches are safe.

“We’ve taken a risk-based approach to all our services and operations at this time and we’re supporting our professional lifeguard team to carry out this highly valued service,” Mr Doyle said.

“We’re asking our community to also do the right thing to allow our lifeguards to do their jobs – stay home if you’re sick, wear a mask if it’s appropriate and maintain a social distance from each other.

“If you are at the beach be sure to swim between the red and yellow flags which designate the safes swimming spot, enjoy your swim and go home afterwards. And if your usual beach is likely to be busy, why not try a new, less busy beach?”

Council’s website lists the details of all 17 of patrolled beaches in the region.

Council’s website also has a range of resources for those wanting to brush-up on their beach knowledge before hitting the surf. There are beach safety tips, videos on spotting a rip and beach safety brochures in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Vietnamese.

In a break from tradition, Council pools (with the exception of rock pools) will remain closed at the start of the swim season. This is in line with the current Public Health Order and there are plans being made to support the pools reopening should the order change.

“We know our pools are popular and we’re looking at how we can support their operations over the peak of summer, should that opportunity come our way,” Mr Doyle said.

“It’s likely this will involve a pool bookings system that will be similar to last summer. We’re looking now at refinements to what that might look like, and how it will work. If we continue to move towards the loosening of restrictions in October, we’ll be sure to share with our community any changes to our pools operations over summer.”

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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