Life-saving angel rings may have to be removed from rugged coastal rocks in National Parks and on Crown land because of government regulation concerned with public liability.
This has frustrated members of local fishing clubs and the Australian National Sportfishing Association, which oversees the angel ring program.
In the meantime, Tomakin Fishing Club president Adam Martin and his members this month have been able to replace the missing ring and repair a vandalised frame at Snapper Point north of Batemans Bay.
ANSA NSW president Stan Konstantaras said his association had tried a few different insurance brokers to find an underwriter for a policy that would meet both Crown Lands and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service requirements over the past 12 months without success.
"Having to continually tell both Adam Martin from Tomakin and Max Castle from Tuross fishing clubs that our hands are tied and we cannot progress the public rescue equipment they feel is needed on the Far South Coast of NSW keeps me awake at night,” Mr Konstantaras said.
“The volunteers at ANSA NSW are gravely concerned that this current request will culminate in no new rings being installed in NSW because of its inability to source a new insurance policy.
“They are also concerned about the status of any existing rings that they have installed over the years under the previous consent conditions it had agreed upon with Crown Lands and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
“The stress and rigours that the volunteers at ANSA NSW have been forced to face is taking its toll and with talks to shut the angel ring project down as the only option available at this point in time a looming reality.”
Mr Martin meanwhile was pleased to have been able to replace the ring at the popular Snapper Point fishing spot, which may have been stolen after the mounting frame was vandalised. He urged anyone seeing any criminal activity associated with the angel rings to please report it to police immediately.
“Please don't tamper with them unless it is need to aid in the rescue of someone. They are there to save lives not a trophy in your garage,” he said.
“With the warm weather only around the corner, thousands of recreational fisher people are thinking of fishing and descend on the Eurobodalla region to wet a line.
“We have many locals and also the mass amount of fishos from Canberra and Sydney visiting the region many of which spend time on our great rock ledges and headlands. With this in mind I personally probably hear of at least two or three cases a year where some poor fisho has had a brush with death and unfortunately we hear of a fatality every few years.
“I have nearly had all local emergency departments mention at some point that we need more of these devices. So now is the time for more angel rings to be installed along our great coastline because they can help save lives.”
There is a keen committee in the Tomakin Fishing Club ready and willing to boost the number of installed angel rings in the northern region of the Batemans Bay Marine Park but it was unable to do so because of the public liability issue, he said.
“For years the ANSA has bent over backwards jumping through hoops set by a state government department for insurance purposes to install and maintain these life preserving buoys with success but now the bureaucrats of this department are more concerned about covering their own backsides and their jobs introducing a ridiculous amount of new conditions that just cannot be met,” Mr Martin said.
“They are more concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people's needs. No one person, organisation or government department has ever been convicted of assisting the rescue and saving of a life. These angel rings save lives period so it should be a no brainer to keep the program easy to implement rather than next to impossible.”
ANSA angel ring background
ANSA NSW has run the angel ring project for over two decades and has installed more than 130 angel rings, or lifebuoys, in known rock-fishing hot spots in NSW. ANSA reports angel rings have saved 70 lives in NSW, helped identify coastal black spots and raised community awareness of the present dangers of ocean waves for rock platform users.
The program receives some funding from the Recreational Fishing Trusts, which is mainly used to fund new and replacement angel rings. The installation and maintenance of the angel rings is done by volunteers from ANSA who have dedicated hundreds of hours over the years to keep this community safety program running.
Concerns have been raised by ANSA NSW regarding additional public liability and indemnity requirements which have been stipulated by DPI Crown Lands and National Parks and Wildlife Service before any new angel ring can be installed in NSW
In particular, Crown Lands has requested ANSA enter into a statewide licence agreement for installation of angel rings on Crown land, which includes a requirement for a significant public risk insurance policy.
While ANSA NSW does have a standard public liability insurance for its organisation, it has received advice that its current policy will not cover the Crown lands additional public risk insurance policy requirement, meaning additional insurance cover will be needed by ANSA at significant cost to the association.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has requested ANSA enter into a statewide consent agreement for installation of angel rings on NPWS managed land. This consent agreement includes listing NPWS as an interested party on their public liability insurance policy in order for their members to be covered when installing and maintaining these rings.
There is also a requirement for ANSA to indemnify NPWS for angel ring associated activities. This has also presented similar issues for ANSA with their current insurance cover.