As weather warms, councils motion to again close beaches

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Earlier this year when governments began responding to COVID, surfers in Sydney were collateral damage to the policy made on the run.

With team sports shut down, and pubs, clubs, and shopping centres closing their doors, people visited the beach en masse. The resultant crowds forced some coastal councils to close not just the beaches and adjacent parks, but they also prevented surfers from entering the water. Surfing was banned.

Councils that took the heavy-handed approach include Waverley and Randwick Councils - which together include every Eastern Suburbs beach - while both Northern Beaches and Sutherland Shire Councils were more cautious yet each closed their beaches at some point.

The actions of the city councils had a spillover effect on regions north and south of Sydney, with city surfers forced to travel further afield for waves.

Cooler weather over winter deterred beach crowds and talk of restricting public movement has been limited to Victoria and its stringent lockdown. Now, however, with the arrival of spring and warmer weather, Sydney councils are again indicating they may close their beaches if visitors don't observe social distancing and crowd limits.

Which means that surfers may again suffer the consequences.

"Certainly I hope that we don't have to close the beaches," Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos told the ABC this morning. "But if people don't do the right thing, and the beach has become too crowded then we'll have to look at how we manage those numbers because I don't want a repeat of what happened back in in March."

Northern Beaches Council is yet to finalise its summer strategy, yet it's also warning it may close beaches "if crowds become too large and unmanageable".

Last March, Cronulla used a "swim and go" strategy to good effect, and the Mayor of Sutherland Shire Council Carmelo Pesce has said they'd again implement that policy plus close beachside carparks.

"When they [visiting crowds] showed up to Cronulla there was limited parking, so they had to move on. So I think that would be a measure that we would probably go down first before we close the beach," said Mayor Pesce. "But if we have to close, then we will." 

When visiting crowds were moved on from Cronulla the next stop was the beaches of Wollongong. Late last month, Mayor of Wollongong City Council Gordon Bradbery told the Illawarra Mercury, "I would hope to avoid the shutting down of any public space, like we saw earlier this year, and would just encourage people to still continue to practice the public health orders."

"We have got no alternative but to allow visitors, and they will come to our beautiful part of the world, but," continued Bradbery, "if people haven't realised by now what social distancing involves, well they're pretty thick."


chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Tuesday, 8 Sep 2020 at 2:58pm

if the numbers in the waters are high enough to lead to beach closures, then there isn't much point being in the water anyway.

when sydney beaches were closed at the start of the pandemic there were 80+ people in the water at these beaches. so there was no way you were going to catch a wave then, even without beach closures.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Sunday, 13 Sep 2020 at 8:06am

80+ people at Sydney beaches is a quiet day.

The Cronulla option, surf and go, which is what a lot of us do anyway, makes more sense.

JackStance's picture
JackStance's picture
JackStance commented Tuesday, 8 Sep 2020 at 3:18pm

Does anyone know if NSW surfers can access D'Bah?

Breath. Murdoch's empire will one day fail to control our minds.

Oceanliving9356's picture
Oceanliving9356's picture
Oceanliving9356 commented Friday, 11 Sep 2020 at 4:23pm

I’ve got a better idea, let’s just ban councils, and State governments, all they do is cost us money, why we have 3 tiers of government I have no idea,

Ralph's picture
Ralph's picture
Ralph commented Sunday, 13 Sep 2020 at 9:28am

Yeah I reckon we could do without state governments. Australian laws should be uniform across the nation. Not much chance of doing away with state governments though unfortunately.

Clive Rodell's picture
Clive Rodell's picture
Clive Rodell commented Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 12:23pm

Utilising the Local Parking Permits as admission would help.
A lot of the issues at Manly and the Northern Beaches, were caused by Backpackers and visiting Surfers from the closed Southside beaches.
That would certainly limit the chaos that is still being experienced on certain days.
We do pay rates for those passes after all. To have our surfs limited to under an hour, whilst those with shared or no cars had carte blanche, was not fair, and certainly not thought through.

Clive Rodell