A contingency of MPs have called on shark nets to be scrapped in NSW, with some key progressive MPs threatening to withhold support for the state government due to its lack of willingness to engage on the issue.
On Wednesday morning, MPs from the Animal Justice Party, the NSW Greens, Liberal Party, Liberal Democrats and Legalise Cannabis Party, independents Alex Greenwich and Michael Regan, and animal advocates united to call for the government to trial alternative technologies, lashing the use of shark nets as “lazy” policy.
As it stands, Premier Chris Minns has remained firm that nets will be redeployed across 51 NSW beaches from September 1 until April next year.
Upper house MPs Emma Hurst (Animal Justice Party) and Cate Faehrmann (NSW Greens) said Labor’s stance on environmental issues like delaying the Great Koala National Park and continuing the use of shark nets would threaten their support for the government’s bills and motions in parliament.
Ms Faehrmann accused the government of taking the “lazy road” with installing shark nets and said they were taking the minor party’s support “for granted”.
“We are incredibly disappointed and (we are) looking at Labor’s agenda, looking at some things they want from us and us withholding support,” she said.
“We’re standing here today and saying enough is enough.”
Ms Hurst said while she would continue to support Bills and motions on a “case-by-case basis,” Labor’s stance was making it “progressively more difficult to work with them on their general agenda”.
“They’re already failing to commit to their election promises and that’s always going to make it far more difficult for the crossbench to work with them,” she said.
“I think that we’re going to continue to work with them and try to actually get them to commit to that trial.”
MPs across the political spectrum were overwhelmingly in favour of a trial to remove shark nets for other measures like surveillance drones and shark management alert in real time (SMART) drumlines.
“Nets don’t work. Lifeguards save lives, shark nets just simply kill marine animals,” Ms Hurst said.
“We’re here today to call the government to revisit this decision and to commit to a trial on some of the beaches where councils have been calling for these trials.”
According to an annual performance report on shark meshing released by the state government in August, only 11 per cent of the 228 animals caught in NSW shark nets between September 2022 to April 2023 were target sharks, which include white, bull or tiger sharks.
Instead, the shark nets snared other animals, including threatened or protected species like leatherback turtles, grey nurse sharks, seals and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.
Liberal MP for Terrigal Adam Crouch said the Central Coast Council was “ready to go” with trialling SMART drumlines.
Instead of catching an approaching animal, the drumlines use a baited hook to catch an animal before triggering an alert to a surveillance team. They can then respond to the caught animal immediately and either tag a target shark or release any other marine life caught by the device.
“I call on the (Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty) to speak with Central Coast Council as a matter of urgency,” Mr Crouch said.
“You have the chance now to stop this from happening on the Central Coast. Use it as a trial to remove the shark nets and protect this endangered marine life that is needlessly being killed in these nets.”
Mr Greenwich, the MP for Sydney, called on the government to be “honest with the public that they (shark nets) do not work”.
“They are simply a faulty Band-Aid but we need that investment in new technology,” he said.
Faced with increasing pressure to consider other methods of protecting swimmers against sharks, Mr Minns has not wavered in the use of shark nets for the upcoming season.
He said while the government would be “looking closely at emerging technology”, he would not be “rushed” into using alternative methods.
“This is an important decisions and when it comes to the safety of people that recreate, surf and use city beaches, I need to make sure we’re completely satisfied towards the appropriate decision,” he said.