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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Selfie-hunters cause rise in rescues along Lake Mac coast

People seeking the perfect photo in spectacular seaside locations have prompted a rise in the number of rescues along the Lake Macquarie coast.

Lake Macquarie City Council Beach Lifeguards Team Leader Danny Napper said lifeguards had been called to numerous challenging rescues over the 2020-21 beach season, particularly in spots south of Catherine Hill Bay.

“We’ve had quite a few tourists venturing to out-of-the-way locations in search of the ultimate selfie, only to be stranded by rough conditions and incoming tides,” he said.

“The caves and inlets along our coast are certainly beautiful and a wonderful natural attraction for visitors. But when conditions are rough or the tide is high, people need to consider the risks.”

One of the season’s most dramatic rescues involved two lifeguards rushing to the aid of six visitors stranded in a cave north of Frazer Park.

“Our guys did a fantastic job,” Mr Napper said.

“The conditions were pretty messy but they got all six out of there without incident, which is a credit to our lifeguards’ skills.”

Attendance numbers during the beach season swung wildly due to the temperamental weather and beach conditions, with sharp spikes in crowds on sunny, calm days followed by steep drops when La Nina’s wet spells kept people away.

An estimated 865,000 people visited Lake Mac beaches across the season, which ended on Sunday – down on the 1.2 million welcomed during the 2019-20 season.

“We had anticipated the busiest season for years due to COVID travel restrictions, but wet weather over Christmas had a significant impact on numbers,” Mr Napper said.

Patches of wild weather also threw up more flotsam and jetsam than usual along the Lake Mac coast, keeping crews busy with regular clean-ups.

Logs, large pieces of rubbish, water tanks and even fridges were among the items to wash up during last month’s atrocious conditions.

Redhead was once again the most popular Lake Mac beach, attracting more than 350,000 people.

But Mr Napper said Caves Beach was gradually catching up, likely due to increasing numbers of Sydneysiders holidaying closer to home.

“The peaks in crowd numbers at Caves Beach seem to be occurring more regularly, and I think part of that can be attributed to people from Sydney discovering it’s not too far to travel for the day or weekend,” he said.

“People haven’t been able to travel overseas and they’re discovering reasonably local places they want to explore and enjoy.”

Crowd counting this year was aided by the council’s pioneering Smart Beaches technology, which includes cameras at Blacksmiths and Redhead beaches that can track attendance.

Lifeguard patrols will re-commence at Redhead, Swansea, Caves and Catherine Hill Bay beaches in the September/October school holidays.

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