THE debate over installing a fence or safety barrier around the Tathra Wharf is an issue that is hotly discussed in the community, with people both for and against the idea.
President of the Tathra Wharf Museum Allen Collins and his partner Jill did not agree with the proposal.
“I really can’t see how a fence will stop an accident,” Mr Collins said.
Mr Collins said at 7 o’clock the morning after the tragedy that claimed the lives of Shane O’Neill and his two children in November 2008, he held a service for them and so he was full of empathy for those lives lost.
On the night of the tragedy, he said the weather was very bad – it was windy and the sea was choppy.
“It’s a terrible thing to say, but the man and his children should not have been on the wharf,” Mr Collins said.
“It was an accident.”
He had never known there to be any other case of a child falling off the wharf and drowning.
“If you put a fence there then the kids will climb all over the wharf, and the fishermen will stay away,” Mr Collins said.
“Bega Council has responded, they’ve got rings down there, they’ve got ladders from the water to the wharf, [and] they’ve got alarm buttons there.
“They’ve done, I think, what is really necessary.”
He said a child could climb the fence and fall into the ocean just as easily if there was no fence there.
Coming down from the Snowy Mountains to do some fishing at the wharf on Sunday were Charlie Mineres and Grigor Wallace, who discussed the idea of installing a fence.
“I’d reckon yes because it’s really not worth the odd person dying or getting injured,” Mr Wallace said.
Mr Mineres thought it probably wouldn’t be as good for fishermen, but Mr Wallace said having a barrier would not put him off fishing from the wharf.
“I think catching a fish isn’t really worth someone’s life, to be honest,” Mr Wallace said.
“But it depends on how they design it as well.
“If they have one that is safe, that people have no trouble fishing off as well.”
Tom Park of Tathra is a member of the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club and often swims to the wharf.
He didn’t think the wharf needed any more railing.
“Historically, it’s been like this for over 100 years,” he said.
“I don’t think it would make any difference other than to tiny little children who should be supervised anyway.”
He mentioned an idea that had been raised - instead of installing a fence, put up bollards along the front of the wharf, so prams can be rested against them and people can fish between them.
Matt, formerly of Tathra, and Linda Allan from Canberra thought it would be good to install a fence at the wharf for safety reasons.
“It’s probably not a bad idea,” Mr Allan said.
Ms Allan thought a new fence should match the wooden fencing that is already erected and could be improved by being made a bar lower than the current one.
“But a fence is better than none,” she said.
Dane Richmond from Canberra agreed with the idea of installing a new fence, as long as kids were still able to jump off as he thought that was traditional.
“If it makes it safer, it will probably be a good idea,” Mr Richmond said.
He didn’t think having a fence would be a turnoff, from a tourist perspective.
Dr Phil Lee of Canberra also had no objection to the idea.
“Sometimes the wind is very strong, and maybe some kids might fall in and drown,” he said.
“Maybe some professional fishermen won’t like it, but for me it’s ok.”