Beaches in focus

By Zoe McMaugh

Deniliquin could become the second ever inland town to be shortlisted in the Australia’s Best Beaches list . . . . but not without some improvements.

Tourism Australia beach expert Brad Farmer visited to conduct his first round of inspections of both Willoughby’s and McLean Beach on Saturday.

He will return for a second inspection later in the year, and also to experience the Deniliquin Ute Muster for the first time.

Speaking to the Pastoral Times from Bali where he is conducting more inspections, Mr Farmer said he was quite impressed with the beaches Deniliquin has to offer.

But he said some concerns regarding shared use of the areas would need to be addressed before he could officially recommend either local beach for his shortlist.

Mr Farmer visited McLean Beach on one of the busiest weekends of the year for boaters and skiers.

He acknowledged this has skewed his opinion of the beach to some degree.

‘‘My first impression was all the boats (at McLean Beach),’’ he said.

‘‘Most people go to the beach for a little rest and relaxation.

‘‘I had to take into account two things there — the noise factor, and that there is no dedicated swimming reserve.

‘‘It did raise some concerns about a potential collision between a motorcraft and a swimmer.

‘‘The beach is amazing, but after having been there on the Australia Day weekend it is not somewhere I would go to relax — certainly not on a long weekend.

‘‘Norm (Mayor Norm Brennan) did explain to me that it is usually only that busy during peak holiday periods.

‘‘It could be worthy of shortlisting, but it would need further inspection.’’

Mr Farmer said he loved the natural environment both McLean and Willoughby’s Beach offer, and said he was also impressed with the quality and ‘‘gentle flow’’ of the water.

He said if there was more investment to create a dedicated swimming spot, Deniliquin’s chances of making the shortlist would improve dramatically.

‘‘While Wagga (which is to date the only inland beach to reach Mr Farmer’s shortlist) has gone to a lot of expense to beautify the area, Deniliquin is quite natural. It has super wide girth red gums and natural open spaces which I quite enjoyed.

‘‘I would encourage the council to declare a dedicated swimming area, a section of the river that is a boat free zone.

‘‘It might mean employing a hydrologist or sand dumping, it might mean improved signage to declare a boat free zone and stronger regulations on the speed (for boats).

‘‘Council could spend $100,000 and be able to say ‘this is our swimming reserve’. I would be happy to advise council on ways it could do that.’’

Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan said upgrades for McLean Beach are already tabled as part of the Deniliquin Masterplan, but said council is willing to make adjustments to the document based on Mr Farmer’s recommendations.

Cr Brennan said he’s already had discussions with council staff about potentially bringing forward some elements of the upgrades.

‘‘One of the comments made on the day was that there needed to be more shade, and while Brad loved the gum trees they are set back a bit and don’t provide that.

‘‘One focus is to construct shade sales near the swimming area and to re-erect that safe swimming structure.

‘‘We could maybe look at moving the four knott speed sign another 100m to 150m, and potentially improve the car park at the upstream end closer to the swimming area so families don’t have to walk 300m to get there.

‘‘We will continue to look at the things we can implement. We are in the budget process now, and to bring any of this forward may mean we have to reallocate funds or seek grants.’’
Council’s masterplan recommends investigating the relocation of the dedicated swimming area further upstream from McLean Beach (toward the National Bridge).

It also recommends an upgrade of existing park furniture at McLean Beach (seats, picnic settings, shelters, shade structures, rubbish bins, bicycle rails), the installation of a playground and additional barbecue and improvements to the car park.

Mr Farmer said he was encouraged to consider Deniliquin’s beaches for his shortlist during his inspections at Wagga last year.

‘‘When I was in Wagga some people who used to live in Deniliquin said that Deni’s beaches trump Wagga’s. My curiosity peaked.

‘‘Tourism Australia and Destination New South Wales do want to extend the beach definitions to include more inland access.’