New Surf Life Saving Queensland report highlights high-risk locations

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) will trial new equipment and service this summer after its 2016 Coast Safe Report noted 11 drownings on Queensland beaches last season and identified six coastal blackspots across the state.

Released on Friday (16 September) to coincide with the launch of SLSQ’s 2016/17 volunteer patrol season, the second annual Coast Safe Report seeks to highlight key beach safety and drowning trends across the past 12 months and ten years.

The report reveals there were 11 drownings on Queensland beaches in the 12 months from 1 July 2015 through to 30 June 2016, including four in the wider Sunshine Coast region (Maroochydore, Warana, Kings and Teewah Beaches) and three on the Gold Coast (Southport Spit, Broadbeach and Southport Main Beach).

There were also two drownings recorded in North Queensland (Fitzroy Island and Palm Cove), one at Redcliffe, and one on Fraser Island.

By comparison, there has been a total of 81 coastal drowning deaths recorded on Queensland beaches in the past ten years, with 35 (43.2%) of these occurring on the Gold Coast and 18 (22.2%) on the Sunshine Coast and Noosa.

Surfers Paradise is the most common individual location for coastal drownings across the past ten years, recording eight since 2006, ahead of Green Island in North Queensland with five.

Following the report, SLSQ has identified six high-risk coastal blackspots across the state, including two on the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise, and Marina Mirage to Southport Spit), two on the Sunshine Coast (Noosa River to Rainbow Beach, and Discovery Beach to Point Arkwright), Green Island and Fraser Island (ocean side).

SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill said a close look at the statistics reinforced the need to swim at patrolled locations only, reminding beachgoers there had never been a preventable drowning recorded between SLSQ’s red and yellow flags.

“Unfortunately, all 11 drownings that occurred on Queensland beaches happened at either unpatrolled locations or outside of patrol times, which is a tragic and heartbreaking reminder about the need to swim between the red and yellow flags at all times,” he said.

“Our statistics show that more than half of all drownings last season occurred less than one kilometre from a patrol service and we’re confident that most, if not all, of these could have been prevented if the swimmer had taken a few extra minutes to walk to the red and yellow flags,” he said.

Mr Hill said SLSQ would continue to explore all possible strategies and avenues in a bid to increase protection for beachgoers and eliminate drownings along Queensland’s coastline.

The agenda for this summer includes trials of a night vision surf surveillance camera at Surfers Paradise, and a continuation of SLSQ’s dusk patrol service at the popular tourist spot over the Christmas holidays.

In addition, SLSQ will be boosting its jet ski patrols at selected locations, increasing aerial patrols via the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, and seeking to engage further with international tourists about surf safety and education.

“Our vision is ‘Zero preventable drownings in Queensland public waters’ and we remain more committed to achieving that than ever,” Mr Hill said.

“Over the next 12 months we’ll be introducing and expanding services at selected high-risk locations across the state, trialling new equipment, and testing the effectiveness of night-vision camera technology at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.

“However, I can’t stress enough just how important it is to put your personal safety first at all times when in and around the water this summer,” he said.

The report’s release coincides with the launch of SLSQ’s 2016/17 volunteer patrol season, which will see thousands of surf lifesavers across the state return to the beach and patrol every weekend and public holiday until May 2016.

Last year the ‘red and yellow army’ of volunteer surf lifesavers spent 352,807 hours on patrol along Queensland’s coastline, performing 110,288 preventative actions to safeguard swimmers, treating 4,611 first aid patients, and directly rescuing 2,124 swimmers through in-water rescues.

Meanwhile, SLSQ’s professional lifeguards performed 700,567 preventative actions, 16,284 first aid treatments and rescued 1,536 swimmers in distress.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said Queensland’s world class beaches were a major drawcard for millions of visitors each year.

“This summer we hope to welcome a record number of visitors from around the world to Queensland’s beautiful beaches,” she said.

“The familiar red and yellow caps are a comforting and welcoming sight for locals and visitors alike.

“The Government is proud to work with Surf Life Saving Queensland to keep our beaches safe and enjoyable.”

A review of drowning data within SLSQ’s 2016 Coast Safe Report shows that last year:

  • Favourable conditions and extended periods of warm weather saw beach visitation increase significantly. Roughly 18.68 million people visited one of SLSQ’s patrolled beaches in 2015/16, compared to just 15.75 million and 13.5 million in the two years prior;
  • Ten males drowned on Queensland beaches, compared to just one female;
  • The average age of drowning victims was 44.5 years, up from 41 years the year before;
  • 82% of drowning victims on Queensland beaches were Australian born and/or Australian residents, representing a significant increase when compared to the ten-year average of 58%;
  • Roughly 27% of all drownings on Queensland beaches occurred within 200 metres of a patrolled area, while almost 55% occurred within 1km of a patrol service.
  • Summer and autumn were the most common months of the year for drownings, with each recording four; and
  • Six of the 11 drownings occurred on the weekend, with five on weekdays.

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