As weather warms, councils motion to again close beaches
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."