New South Wales Premier Mike Baird has this week announced a plan for a six-month trial of shark nets off the beaches of northern NSW. This would extend the state’s shark net program from the 51 beaches currently netted between Wollongong and Newcastle.
The announcement was triggered by Wednesday’s shark accident, in which a surfer received minor injuries from a shark bite at Sharpes Beach, Ballina.
The decision marks a turn-around in Premier Baird’s position on sharks. For over a year he has acknowledged the importance of addressing the issue, and has adopted a measured, long-term, non-lethal approach to managing shark hazards. Specifically, the NSW government has, in the last year, allocated funding and resources to non-lethal strategies including surveillance, research and education.
Killing sharks has been highly controversial in Australia in recent years, and in NSW shark nets have been a focus of ongoing, highly polarising debate.