Monday, March 07, 2016

Shark patrol service for the Illawarra and South Coast grounded

The future of a shark spotting service operating between Palm Beach and Ulladulla is in question after the resignation of its chief pilot.

Warren Gengos, the chief pilot of the Australian Aerial Patrol and the patrol's commercial arm NSW Air, resigned Sunday afternoon.

As a result the entire fleet of the AAP and NSW Air is now grounded.

Mr. Mitchell said the former chief pilot Warren Gengos indicated his intention resign some time ago, but brought the date forward to Sunday.

"Right at this moment we are actively engaged in a recruitment process of seeking a suitable replacement and once we have that replacement chosen we will then advise the Civil Aviation Safety Authority," he said.

The company's distinctive red and yellow planes have been a familiar sight since 1957, though some in the organization are now expressing doubt over whether either service will ever fly again.

The resignation comes after company's accounts were frozen by Bendigo Bank last Friday.

Longstanding general manager Harry Mitchell said he was unsure as to why the bank had decided to freeze the accounts.

"I can't answer that," he said.

"I'm not sure and I will be having discussions with Bendigo Bank today and hopefully there will be some answers there."

Mr. Mitchell told ABC Illawarra's Nick Rheinberger he was not aware of arguments over money within the Australian Aerial Patrol.

"You know that that there was a new board of directors appointed at the last AGM and whether it has anything to do with that or not I am not sure."

Implications for beach safety

Wollongong City Council is a major financial contributor to the Aerial Patrol and NSW Air.

The Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery is concerned about the potential implications for beach safety as the warm weather continues.

"It might mean that during this winter season we've really got to get our head around the future of that sort of surveillance activity and making sure that our beaches are safe ready for next season," he said.

Also expressing concern is Ken Holloway from the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association.

He said the Aerial Patrol was inexpensive when compared with helicopter patrols, so he had been working with them to obtain a slice NSW shark funding.

"There's $16 million of funding over four years [for] ways of minimizing the risk of shark attack, and fixed aerial patrol is one of those ways we think we can minimize that risk," he said.

Despite the setbacks Harry Mitchell remained confident the service still had a future.

"The community of the Illawarra have had Aerial Patrols flying over its beaches and the region for six decades and the community deserves to have the Aerial Patrol flying over its region for another six decades," he said.

"And that will be my objective and that of the new board as well."

Original article can be found here:

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