Runners at Jetty Beach earlier this week. Photo by Trevor Veale.
Runners at Jetty Beach earlier this week. Photo by Trevor Veale.

Councils weigh up their options on beach closures

WITH beaches becoming more of a refuge for those escaping Covid-19 restrictions, Councils along the coast have been weighing up their management options - particularly with the Easter holiday period just around the corner.

Yesterday MidCoast Council announced it would be closing its beaches from midnight tonight until the until the end of the school holiday period.

The MidCoast area is home to a number of popular beachside tourist towns like Forster/Tuncurry and Harrington.

"While we know the majority of people adhere to these rules, we don't know who will be visiting our area over Easter and the school holidays, despite the clear message to stay home," MidCoast Council posted on its Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon.

It means nobody can access any MidCoast Council controlled beach for any reason - including swimming, walking or fishing - and the NSW Police will be out enforcing these closures.

In relation to Coffs Harbour City Council controlled beaches, General Manager Steve McGrath says the situation will be monitored closely in coming days but for now beaches will remain open.

"We are continuing to work closely with the NSW Government and are following theirs and the Australian Government's advice on all precautionary measures," Mr McGrath said.

"Local police and our own lifeguards have observed that, to date, our community has been following social distancing rules extremely well. But should this situation change and we are requested to take further action we would naturally take those measures.

"We need to understand that our beaches are no different to passive parks and, subject to appropriate social distancing, provide an opportunity for exercise".

Earlier this week Crown Lands Minister Melinda Pavey stepped in to reopen Coffs Harbour's Northern Breakwall which had been closed over the weekend due to concerns walkers were ignoring social distance guidelines.

RELATED: Breakwall open again but reserve remains closed

However, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve and the Marina Boardwalk remain closed to the public.

Walkers and surfers on North Wall beach in Coffs Harbour this week. Photo by Trevor Veale
Walkers and surfers on North Wall beach in Coffs Harbour this week. Photo by Trevor Veale

Other Councils in the region are keeping beaches open:

- Port-Macquarie Hastings Council advises on their website that beaches remain open but: 'please note our beaches will not have flags or designated swimming areas set up, however, lifeguards will still be onsite to patrol.'

- While Clarence Valley Council's main centre is the riverside town of Grafton the Local Government Area includes a number of popular beaches such as Yamba and Angourie.  Currently their beaches remain open but they have warned of increasing ranger patrols in coastal areas.

Dawn at Yamba Main Beach. Photo by Stephen Ward.
Dawn at Yamba Main Beach. Photo by Stephen Ward.

- Bellingen Shire Council advises that all Surf Lifesaving Service NSW volunteer surf lifesaving patrols on the beaches at Hungry head, Urunga and North Beach Mylestom have been cancelled for the rest of the season which means those beaches will be unpatrolled on weekends.

If you are visiting a beach remember the following guidelines:

- Keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people - this includes in and out of the water (surfing and swimming)

- Limit gatherings to no more than two people (unless the same household)

- Return to your home once you complete your exercise

Deputy NSW Premier JohnBarilaro issued a stern warning to those considering visiting the region during the school holidays.

"Do no visit your holiday home. Do not take up your Airbnb accommodation, actually cancel it. Cancel your hotel accommodation. You are not welcome. You cannot visit this weekend...police will be out and about."