Potential consequences of the missing Port Noarlunga jetty stairs

October 23, 2019 | Posted in: Coastal activities, Education, Jetties, Kayaking, Safety, Submissions to Government

Just 32 kilometres south of Adelaide, the seaside town of Port Noarlunga is one of South Australia’s favourite destinations for aquatic activities. This week, hundreds of school children are in the midst of intensive aquatics programs, where they are introduced to the joys of paddling, ocean swimming, surfing (pending wind conditions), snorkeling and even stand-up paddle-boarding.

Another activity that children informally participate in at Port Noarlunga is jetty jumping. Prior to the destruction of the steps at the reef-end of the jetty during wild weather late last year, children would self-organise for this activity, jumping in from atop the jetty and into the relative safety of receiving waters 7-8 metres deep. The main safety risk at this location was the potential for a collision… for one jumper to land on another before the past jumper is out of the way.

In the absence of the replacement steps however, the risk profile of jetty jumping at Port Noarlunga has increased significantly. Since there are no steps at the far end of the jetty, children are now self-organising their jetty jumping activity at the nearshore jetty steps, which means that they are throwing themselves into water only 3-4 metres deep.

A boy I went to school with was jetty jumping at Glenelg in the 1990s, and recieved a spinal injury after landing badly (presumably hitting the seafloor). I am concerned that this could easily happen again, at Port Noarlunga, and consider this a strong case to support the urgent replacement of the reef-end stairs. Spinal injuries can result in permanent disability or even death.

I wrote to Mayor of the City of Onkaparinga sharing this advice yesterday, and reminded her of my past correspondence warning of the social and economic impact the missing stairs would have on scuba diving and snorkeling activity. Without the steps in place, people seeking to visit the reef face the more arduous task of swimming out hundreds of metres from shore or from the near-shore steps, and I believe this has turned many people away from visiting Port Noarlunga. There are plenty of other sites with closer, more convenient access to that location’s main underwater attraction (such as Rapid Bay, Port Hughes, Brighton Jetty and the inshore reef at Christies Beach).

Port Noarlunga is undoubtedly a paradise for lovers of aquatics like myself… it would be a crying shame to see safety hazards linger or worsen and visitation suffer on account of the Council’s apparent lack of urgency to replace the missing stairs.

Dan Monceaux is a documentary filmmaker with a keen interest in marine biodoversity and conservation issues. He joined MLSSA in 2013 and served as Secretary from April-December 2014. Dan snorkels and has burning passions for underwater photography and citizen science.

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