Shark attacks hit NSW North Coast tourism’s bottom line

A THIRD of North Coast tourism businesses have reported direct impacts from increased shark sightings and attacks along the region's beaches.

A raft of new submissions to NSW parliamentary inquiry have been gone public as the government moves ahead with its $16 million shark strategy.

North Coast Destination Network executive officer Belinda Novicky told the inquiry those affected reported median losses of $25,000 in a survey of 89 of the region's hotel and tourism operators.

"The 33% who have described an impact reported that there had been a 33% increase of beach safety inquiries from visitors already on holidays," she wrote.

One-fifth had direct booking cancellations and 38% responded to "other" impacts, including group booking cancellations to surf schools.

A retailer also described a 50% downturn in surf accessories sales.

"It was clear from the report that the negative publicity and continuous discussion about the sharks ... was the main concern from tourism operators," the submission continued.

Ballina Shire Council civil services group manager John Truman said the council's Flat Rock Tent Park camping ground was at 33% capacity during the traditionally busy last weekend of August.

It operated with a 65% occupancy rate in 2014 and 82% in 2013.

"Furthermore, the park operators report a cancellation by a long-term customer, being a board riding group, who cancelled due to concerns regarding the sharks," Mr Truman said.

Two Queensland state schools that had run surfing camps from the site for the past four years did not make bookings this year.

The council called for a government study into the economic impacts of shark sightings and attacks on the North Coast.

It also called for aerial patrols and other measures to be established as soon as possible to keep the problem in check.

Yamba Surf Life Saving Club echoed the plea, following a 1225% increase in shark sightings between July and the end of September - reaching 53 call-outs compared to four at the same time last year.

"The NSW Government has been running a (shark net program) since 1937 at 51 beaches in the Newcastle to Wollongong area," it stated.

"Unfortunately this shark protection program does not extend to the North Coast of NSW.

"There are 129 surf lifesaving clubs operating on NSW beaches but only 51 of these clubs have government shark protection strategies in place.

"The NSW government needs to take a close look at the Queensland shark protection program.

"They only have 58 surf lifesaving clubs in Queensland, but they run their program on 85 beaches between Coolangatta and Cairns.

"They cover the whole of the state - not just the metropolitan area - and include beaches that do not have surf lifesaving patrols." -APN NEWSDESK


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