A new safety plan that includes a defibrillator for Wagga Beach has been approved more than two years after an investigation into installing the device was promised.
Changes adopted for the beach include a dedicated swimming area at the sandy foreshore, two life rings and a publicly accessible defibrillator at an estimated cost of $15,000.
The new measures were recommended by the Beach Aquatic Safety Assessment of Wagga Beach by Royal Life Saving NSW submitted earlier this month and voted in unanimously at Monday evening's general council meeting.
An investigation into installing the rescue equipment was first promised in the Inland Water Safety Plan in 2019, and initial plans to improve water safety were promised in 2017. The motions followed several drowning incidents in the notoriously dangerous swimming spot.
Some measures of the Inland Water Safety Plan have been adopted already include a lifesaving program for kids and safety signage which will continue to be funded and monitored under the new recommendations.
Former combat medic Rory McKenzie presented an impassioned case for the adoption of the new report's recommendations ahead of the council vote, tackling early concerns raised by some councillors over the cost of a defibrillator, around $1600, or the potential of it being stolen if publicly accessible.
"These machines are expensive but are they more expensive than life itself?" he asked. "These arguments that the defibrillator could be stolen aren't really realistic to the face that these machines can be placed in vandal proof cabinets which can be alarm activated pin code accessible and with the use of CCTV protects this resource."
Councillor Vanessa Keenan who tabled the original notice of motion in 2017, praised the council's efforts on water safety over the past almost four years and said the adoption of the new recommendations would be life saving.
"We'll never know the results of our actions from undertaking the efforts that we have over the past couple of years ... to make sure we could take a holistic response to safety in our waterways," she said. "But no doubt lives will be saved as a result of this."
Deputy Mayor Dallas Tout supported the motion but pushed for all education and signage to be inclusive of multicultural members of the community.
"I know being at Oura we've had one or two incidents and it's critical as far as anything we do as to signage and education it covers everyone in the community," he said. "The biggest risk is looking and seeing a sign and understanding what it means."
Mr McKenzie also called for the council to consider a lifeguard service for the beach, a recommendation that was not included in the report's findings.
"Many of you will disagree, possibly arguing a burden of cost to the community and [that it] may be unnecessary, but we expect lifeguards at our swimming pool at Oasis and yet this area will attract many more swimmers including tourists," he said. "Why can't we compromise, why can't we use this service over summer?"
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