Local councils are stifling efforts to improve safety for rock fishermen in NSW, an inquest into the deaths of two anglers has heard.


Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon was told that a lack of experience and education also contributed to rock fishing fatalities, and that many people were risking their lives in “black spots” and rough conditions on the state’s coastline.

A Say Hong, 58, and Tong Ren, 30, drowned within hours of each other after being swept off rocks into choppy seas at North Bondi in April 2009, a popular fishing spot described as one of the most dangerous in Sydney.

“(Mr) Hong was an experienced fisherman … and a strong swimmer, but the conditions were just too rough,” counsel assisting the coroner Sheena Bucknell said on Wednesday.

“(Mr) Ren has gone fishing at the same location, and he too was washed from the rocks.

“Unfortunately, their love of this sometimes dangerous and unpredictable sport cost them their lives.”

Australian National Sportfishing Association safety officer Stan Konstantaras said more education was needed about the dangers of rock fishing, especially for people from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

But other “back-up” measures were also essential, he said.

The voluntary organisation has installed 111 angel rings, or life buoys, at angling spots since 1994 and recently received $160,000 in federal and state government funding to continue the program.

But Mr Konstantaras told Mr MacMahon that councils were frustrating the process, with approvals taking up to five years.

“It’s a really laborious process,” he said, adding that there was a belief among some councils that the presence of angel rings promoted unsafe fishing practices.

“It depends on how receptive the agency is to having the life rings there.”

Mr Konstantaras said other councils had rejected safety signs designed by Surf Lifesaving Australia on the basis they were “visual pollution”.

Detective Senior Constable Jo-Anna Wooderson said she repeatedly had tried to contact Waverley Council during her investigation into Mr Ren’s death but had never received a response.

Asked if the council ever mentioned an intention to install a fence or safety signs at the spot where the men died, Sen Const Wooderson said she was told signs had since been erected but they related to camping.

The inquest is continuing.