Surfer Jayden Lowrie has witnessed others, including his father, put their lives in danger after people chose to swim at the unpatrolled Bokarina Beach. Picture: John McCutcheon
Surfer Jayden Lowrie has witnessed others, including his father, put their lives in danger after people chose to swim at the unpatrolled Bokarina Beach. Picture: John McCutcheon

A ‘perfect storm’ brewing on unpatrolled beach

NOVICE surfers, an influx of families, complex conditions and a concrete slab have created the "perfect storm" for disaster at a Sunshine Coast beach awaiting a lifeguard tower.

A weekend rescue at Bokarina Beach became the latest testament to the need for a fast-tracked tower and patrol service ahead of a September deadline, according to Wurtulla resident and surfer of 14 years, Jayden Lowrie.

Bokarina Beach developer Stockland has installed billboards to promote the $1.2 million boardwalk access through the dunes, which they said provided greater access to the "sand and surf".

The path opened in August last year along with a viewing deck, seating, bike racks and shower.

Stockland would not install the prefabricated tower until more than one year later.

Sunshine Coast Council is responsible for providing the patrol service, but it has not budged on the September deadline.

"From the September school holidays this year, Bokarina will be patrolled from 8am to 5pm on weekends, school holidays and public holidays with two lifeguards on duty," a council spokeswoman said.

Developer Stocklend opened a new access to Bokarina Beach, complete with better parking. Picture: John McCutcheon
Developer Stocklend opened a new access to Bokarina Beach, complete with better parking. Picture: John McCutcheon

The spokeswoman said construction of the lifeguard tower was a condition of approval for the Bokarina Beach development, and Stockland had arranged for the tower to be prefabricated and installed closer to patrols starting.

"The timing of the commencement of this service was endorsed in the Sunshine Coast Lifeguard Services Plan 2018-22," the spokeswoman said.

Bokarina Beach has been promoted as a "premium world-class community" which will one day be home to 2500 people.

On the weekend, Mr Lowrie witnessed his father rescue a novice surfer from a rip, and said on occasion he and other surfers had done the same at nearby Wurtulla when it was unpatrolled.

Do you feel safe swimming at Bokarina Beach while there's no lifeguard?

This poll ended on 24 February 2020.

Current Results

Yes, but not everyone knows the conditions.

25%

No, I take my family to a patrolled beach.

30%

I don't go there.

44%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"It's that classic situation of there's a brand-new access to the beach, and new development going in, a coffee shop and easy access to parking now, so it creates that perfect storm where if something can go wrong, it probably will if there's not a lifeguard there," Mr Lowrie said.

"There's a lot of new families in the area, and maybe from non-coastal areas, their knowledge of the ocean is probably a little less than people from the Coast.

"That Wurtulla stretch is a tricky beach to navigate," he said, explaining the open stretch was prone to flash rips, rips travelling down the beach, sandbanks dropping off to "large holes" and large waves.

Stockland is required to construct a lifeguard tower, but not until September 2020 this year shortly before patrols are due to start. Picture: John McCutcheon
Stockland is required to construct a lifeguard tower, but not until September 2020 this year shortly before patrols are due to start. Picture: John McCutcheon

A Surf Life Saving Queensland spokesman said the rescue organisation was "highly concerned" members of the public were putting their own lives at risk to rescue others.

"Only 500m south is the patrolled stretch of Wurtulla with lifeguards patrolling the beach from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week," the spokesman said.

"Unfortunately, these incidents serve as a timely reminder to walk the extra distance to ensure your safety between the flags."

SLSQ said it was "not practical" to patrol every beach, but they worked closely with council to improve safety in key areas.

A council spokeswoman said council had invested $4.84 million in lifeguard services in 2019-20 to keep beaches safe, which had resulted in more resources at 11 beaches and an extra 4914 patrol hours.

Council has applied to the State Government for gazettal of a bathing reserve at Bokarina, which must be approved before a patrolled lifeguard service can start.

Jayden Lowrie witnessed his father rescue a novice surfer at Bokarina Beach on the weekend, and said opening a new access without a lifeguard tower is a disaster waiting to happen. Picture: John McCutcheon
Jayden Lowrie witnessed his father rescue a novice surfer at Bokarina Beach on the weekend, and said opening a new access without a lifeguard tower is a disaster waiting to happen. Picture: John McCutcheon

 

 

"The application is being finalised and is expected to be submitted by the end of this month," the spokeswoman said.

Council will apply to extend the existing Wurtulla bathing reserve north by about 700m to beach access 245 to accommodate patrols at Bokarina.

Council received 51 submissions during a recent consultation period which sought input on the proposed bathing reserve, with some opposition due to the potential impact to the dog off-leash areas.

Stockland did not comment on the tower, but stated:

"We have scheduled maintenance works to fix the access tracks to Bokarina Beach following minor damage sustained during recent storms and strong winds and will provide an update to the community once complete," she said.

"All paths and the beach access remain safe to use."



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