TRAGEDY was averted yesterday morning when two people were swept off rocks near Yamba's Main Beach baths but it has sparked calls for council to extend funding for lifeguard patrols.
Lifeguard patrols of Clarence Valley beaches run from September to the end of the January school holidays, and then at Easter, so yesterday there were no lifeguards on duty to come to the people's aid.
But three bystanders jumped in the water and went to the aid of the struggling tourists, who included a 13-year-old Queensland boy.
At the time Yamba's Main Beach was unpatrolled and packed with Queenslanders on holidays raising concerns from Yamba Sergeant Darren Williams about lifeguard patrols during this busy beach period.
"Because of the anomaly of the Queensland and NSW holidays, Lifeguard patrols have only catered for the NSW side of things," he said.
"The beach will be patrolled from this weekend for the entire two weeks of the NSW school holidays."
Sgt Williams said this week's drowning at Byron Bay should serve as a timely reminder to people to swim between the flags at a patrolled beach.
"If you are going to a beach that you haven't swum at before and you're not a local you have to sit back and have a good look at the conditions before going in the water," he said.
He said with big surf predicted for this weekend people should take extra caution at Clarence Valley beaches.
"People need to be mindful as the swell size increases as does the presence of rips and undertows," he said.
After what could have been a tragedy, Sgt Williams called Mayor Richie Williamson and North Coast Lifeguard Duty Supervisor Peter Sweetman to see if it was possible to get the beach patrolled during Queensland school holidays.
Mr Sweetman said he got a call from Cr Williamson confirming patrols would start today at Main Beach.
"Clarence Valley Council and Mayor Richie Williamson should be commended on how quickly they were able to organise funding so patrols can commence tomorrow," he said.
Cr Williamson said when council renewed its contract with lifesaving NSW it would look at implementing a new patrol schedule to cover Queensland school holidays.