Coffs Harbour Marine Rescue station commander Russell Shelton.
Coffs Harbour Marine Rescue station commander Russell Shelton. TREVOR VEALE

Marine Rescue's SOS for a clear line of sight

Marine Rescue blocked by trees: Marine Rescue Station, Coffs Harbour, volunteers vision blocked by trees.

WHEN you're on local waterways the crew at Marine Rescue NSW Coffs Harbour has your back.

Operating 24/7, this not-for-profit organisation moved onto Beacon Hill into purpose-built premises in 2000.

A tightly-knit team of just 50 volunteers keeps this service ticking which includes a search and rescue boat and radio monitoring.

"We are the eyes on the harbour," said Russell Shelton, Unit Commander Marine Rescue NSW Coffs Harbour.

marine rescue station , Coffs Harbour.
A panorama showing the trees hindering Marine Rescue's view of the harbour. Trevor Veale

But lately there seems to be an "eyesight" problem.

"Since the unit moved to Beacon Hill back in 2000, the trees have grown and our sight lines have diminished.

"Some time ago I was watching from the tower and saw a yacht dragging its anchor. The skipper was asleep down below and had no idea - if we had not seen the yacht and alerted him he could have been in quite a bit of danger. Since that incident the trees have grown and we can't see that part of the harbour. We also no longer have a direct sight-line of the boat ramp.

"My predecessor made attempts to get the trees trimmed several times but as we are on Crown land we seem to be between two government bodies which makes it a slow process."

marine rescue station , Coffs Harbour. Station Commander Russell Shelton. 21 JAN 2019
BLOCKED: MR NSW Coffs Harbour’s Unit Commander Russell Shelton and MR volunteer Patrick Whyte don’t have a clear view of the waterfront. Trevor Veale

The crew at MR Coffs don't want to make a fuss or have the trees removed, they just want their "eyes back on the harbour".

"The bottom line is we would just like our original sightlines restored so we can keep sight of any problems in the water. We do have one CCTV camera, but nothing beats eyes focussed on the water.

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, sympathises with what he called Marine Rescue NSW Coffs Harbour's, "bureaucratic nightmare".

marine rescue station , Coffs Harbour. Station Commander Russell Shelton
Marine Rescue no longer have a clear view of the ocean from Beacon Hill and are facing red tape to get the trees trimmed. Trevor Veale

"This is an essential life-saving service, they need a line of sight. Their current line of sight to the south and east is severely affected by overgrown vegetation," Mr Fraser

"The volunteers of MR Coffs Harbour work 24/7, they have my full support and I'll go in with a chainsaw and a bottle of Round-Up if I have to."

It looks like Mr Fraser won't need the Round-up just yet as Coffs Harbour City Council has another solution.

"Council is currently working on a project to replace the current camera that Marine Rescue utilises with a new version that will offer significantly improved surveillance of the entire harbour area," a CHCC spokesperson said.

"We are also installing two other CCTV cameras at the Boat Ramp following the success of a grant application to improve lighting and security in that area. The volunteers from Marine Rescue will also be able to access the feeds from the boat ramp cameras."


A day's duties for MR Coffs Harbour could include a search and rescue mission for people overboard, towing a disabled vessel back to port or transporting medical teams or fire-fighters to inaccessible locations.

They advocate boating safety, encourage all boaties to log in for every trip and remember, "if in doubt don't go out".