January 28 - February 3, 2024: Issue 611


All In The Family: Avalon Beach SLSC Father And Daughter UAV Pilots Are Keeping People Safer On Our Beaches This Summer

Photo: Avalon Beach SLSC Director of Life Saving (Club Captain) Andrew Clark (centre), with two other Patrol 8 Members, Remo and Alexandra Adoncello, who are both also UAV Pilots - photo taken on Avalon Beach on Australia Day 2024. Photo: AJG/PON

Avalon Beach's first ever drone operation was scheduled to take place on the afternoon of Australia Day.

Remo and Alexandra Adoncello (father and daughter) are both qualified Lifeguard UAV pilots who patrol across the peninsula, Palm Beach being a personal favourite of theirs due to the lovely people from all over Sydney and the world they get to talk to who are curious about what they are doing and why.

They are also both Avalon Beach Lifesavers on Patrol 8. 

Given how busy it is at Avalon and all the rescues and preventative actions that have taken place over the past few weekends along our beaches, members were expecting similar action on Friday, Australia Day, as another hot day was forecast and temperatures quickly rose into the high 30's, sending thousands of people to fill our beaches in search of sea breeze and swimming relief. In these conditions, the UAV provides a valuable and increasing adjunct to traditional Patrol duties. 

Life Member of Avalon Beach SLSC, Roger Sayers OAM, shared an insight on the previous weekend and current conditions:

‘’It was very busy with perfect beach weather 33 degrees, but lots of inexperienced visitors, who despite signs, need to have explained to them why a rip is not the best place for them or their young children to have a dip. 

Currently we have 4 or 5 rips on Avalon Beach, which constrains safe swimming locations for the flags, and require surveillance by patrols. Rips may not a problem for experienced boardriders, but they can be potentially lethal for people unfamiliar with the surf, as recent reports of fatalities elsewhere sadly attest.

There were plenty of preventative actions and IRB and board rescues. All 14 volunteer AM patrol members were fully occupied with surveillance, first aid, warnings, surf safety education, and rescues all morning.''

Avalon Beach SLSC Club Captain Andrew Clark, on duty with Patrol 8 on Australia Day afternoon, explained there have been a reasonable number of rescues with the warmer weather and people coming down to the beach, with all those occurring when people do not swim between the flags.

Witnessing a gentleman being pulled out of a rip outside the flagged area by Patrol Members on arriving at the beach underlined Mr. Clark’s point.

‘’As you can see, you only need to be a 50 metres outside of the flags and find yourself in a rip, as is what happened in that case. Near enough isn’t good enough in these instances.’’


Patrol 8 was on duty from 1pm to 6pm during the heatwave conditions of Australia Day 2024. The Club Captain explained that on busy days the Patrol number, of around 14 members, is boosted by a call out for extra members to join the Patrol and bring the number up to 16+. 

‘’We do this to make sure we can do what’s called a ‘roving Patrol’ and have members right along the beach, and including, today, at the south end of the beach to try and stop people going in where the flags aren’t raised and the Patrol area isn’t. These are called ‘Preventative actions’ to stop people going in where they may need rescuing. This is more than what we usually need but on a busy day, the more hands you have helping with a Patrol, allows for these measures.’’ 

Avalon Beach is Patrolled by volunteer Members up to and including April 25th 2024. For the remainder of this Season Andrew Clark asks that visitors to the beach;

"Please always swim between the flags. Even if you are a local resident and think you know the beach, the conditions can change each day and what was safe yesterday might not be safe today. It's also a good idea to check with the Lifeguards or Lifesavers. They will be happy to talk to you about the risks and dangers and explain things to you.

Avalon Beach looks like a small nice inviting beach, and it is, it’s beautiful, but it has safe areas and it has less safe areas. As always, the safest area is between the flags. We move the flags depending on where the safest areas are. So please, swim between the flags – it’s the safest spot – we put the flags there for a reason."

As Remo and Alexandra Adoncello were on duty as part of Patrol 8, Friday January 26th provided an opportunity to gain insights into UAV use in surf lifesaving. 

Remo is a UAV Pilot with Australian UAV Services - DPI Shark Surveillance and Special Projects. He is also works as a Consultant offering advice and expertise to organisations to help them improve their business performance in terms of operations, profitability, management, structure and strategy – so an asset in terms of being a UAV Pilot with decades of experience in these areas.

Alexandra is a Professional Cinematographer and Photographer, having worked for years internationally and at home on projects that are visually brilliant, the sure sign of someone who has an ‘eye for capturing the essence of what’s there’. Taking on being UAV Pilot as a way of giving back to her community was an obvious progression for her – and a great way to spend time with her dad as a bonus.

As Alexandra explained, ‘’I have a background in film and droning and since we were living in Avalon Beach it felt like an appropriate thing I could do to contribute to my community.’’

Remo said he was already patrolling for Avalon Beach SLSC, ‘’I had my IRB certificate and thought I could add to that by learning more. The UAV came in as a great option. Alike Alexandra was already flying a UAV through other things I was doing and this presented a good opportunity to put the two together.’’

Introduced during the 2019/20 season, Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) operations are relatively new to Surf Lifesaving on our local beaches. 

UAV operations are primarily aerial surf safety patrols using drones to provide additional surveillance of the beach environment to enhance the safety of the public. This includes monitoring surf zones, identifying rips, swimmers in difficulty and looking for other hazards such as sharks.



Short-Term Accommodation In Barrenjoey Headland Buildings Ruled Out: Formalisation Of Plan Of Management To Occur Soon

On November 29, 2023 Pittwater MP Rory Amon asked Questions in the NSW Parliament in relation to the 2022 Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves Draft Plan of Management. Mr. Amon received an answer published on Thursday 11 January 2024 in the NSW Parliamentary papers, confirming the Heritage buildings at Barrenjoey Head will be managed to conserve and communicate the significant cultural heritage of this iconic site. 

The Answers also stated 'The plan will rule out the use of heritage buildings at Barrenjoey Head for visitor accommodation.' 

The final plan will provide scope for the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings at Barrenjoey Head for community or park management purposes, subject to the necessary heritage assessments and approvals.

And; 'The draft plan proposed buildings elsewhere in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park that could be suitable for visitor accommodation in the future. The plan is anticipated to be finalised in the near future.'

In January 2023 the community gathered at Station Beach, Pittwater to protest against the then coalition state government's plan to allow short-term accommodation in the Lightkeepers cottages. See: Ten Years On ‘Hands Off Barrenjoey!’ Remains The Song, January 2023, Issue 569.

This was the second time the community had lodged responses to a proposed short-term accommodation use of the Barrenjoey Headland buildings.

The 2022 Draft of the 'Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Island Nature Reserves Draft Plan of Management' opened for public consultation during the first week of the September 2022 school holidays with feedback open until November 22nd, 2022. A week later Pittwater MP Rob Stokes announced his departure from state politics.  

The Palm Beach Whale Beach Association (PBWBA) were advised by NPWS they had received over 600 submissions but would not disclose who supported or objected to the changes proposed in the Draft.

One of the objectives of the Palm Beach Whale Beach Association, the Pittwater Environmental Heritage Group and community members, to not have the 2022 Draft changes to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Island Nature Reserves Draft Plan of Management approved before the state election, was achieved. 

An undertaking this would not occur by then Liberal Candidate for Pittwater in the 2023 State Election, Cr. Rory Amon, was given; as stated by Manly MP James Griffin to him, and confirmed via Twitter by then Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, who also attended the rally.

Should the Liberal National coalition have won another term governing NSW at the March 25 2023 election those opposing short-term accommodation at Barrenjoey Headland stated that win could have been viewed as a mandate to proceed with the commercialisation of a public asset in a way that would exclude the public accessing this site, as has occurred at other lighthouse sites converted for commercial use across the state.

People were also concerned the Heritage values of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse precinct may be compromised, as they have been in other lighthouses converted for short-term accommodation.

The now Minns led incumbent Labour government's current Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Minister for Environment and Heritage and Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC, attended the second Barrenjoey Rally, stating to the crowd:

‘I’d like to begin by Acknowledging the Garigal people who for tens of thousands of years have looked after places like this. We owe them a great debt, we also owe them the responsibility of making sure we don’t wreck it. 

I’d also like to thank Rob for giving that overview of what is happening at Barrenjoey and also across the state, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

National Parks are given the highest status of protection for a reason. We decide that we’re going to set them aside to conserve everything that is important about what’s in them. That includes, obviously, the plants and animals and the stories that are there, but it also includes the cultural and built heritage that has developed over time that tells a story of this nation.

This is something that is on the National Heritage register. It’s on the State Heritage register. There have been more studies done about this lighthouse than we may ever read in a lifetime, thousand and thousands of pages and millions of words.

What it comes down to is this is a very special place. It is owned by the public, it’s actually our responsibility and the government’s responsibility to care for it into the future.’


‘I was glad that Rob reminded us of the Plan of Management (PoM) to get the detail of what needs to be done and how we can turn this around. 

In 2002 the previous Labor Government did the Plan of Management. The PoM’s that are developed for National Parks are extremely important, they’re very detailed, they are based on science, based on heritage assessments, and if they’re working properly, they actually involve the local community and involve the First Nations people as they are developed.

It was decided then that this was a special place and it wasn’t going to be commercialised or privatised. 

In 2013 a new government comes in and straight away they’re looking at how we can commercialise the site.  No one is opposed to fixing it and looking after it and how the public can better use and access those buildings. No one is arguing against that – but when you start to put on all this about ‘adaptive reuse’ or a potential for a ‘conference centre’, as has been proposed across the water, or the potential for accommodation here, then you know you are starting to degrade the place straight away. There needs to be a careful conversation if ever that happens and it really is unacceptable.

What is also unacceptable is that the government ruled out exactly what they’re trying to do right now. 

You fought back in 2013, and good on you to all of you who have been doing this for decades. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was about 15 I worked out this morning. 

This was a promise that this wouldn’t occur. And let’s not forget that the current government has ignored the PoM since 2002, so why the unseemly rush, literally less than 60 days out from a state election, to try and sign this off and say there is nothing that can be done?

There’s always something that can be done – and the first thing that should happen today is that Minister Griffin, the Minister for Environment and Heritage, should make the commitment that he is not going to sign off on the Draft Plan of Management until after the election and the people of this area and beyond can have their say about what they think should happen here.

The last thing I wanted to say is it’s not just Barrenjoey. After 2013 when Rob Stokes said ‘no, we’re not going to do that, we’re going to look after it and care for it’, the current government has stripped over a period of time $120 million out of National Parks system. 

In 2015 I was leaked a memo from the National Parks and Wildlife Service that basically said ‘we cannot sustain the cuts that are being made by the government. If we are forced to try and implement all these cuts we will have to look for commercial opportunities everywhere across the state.’

Fast forward to 2023 and it doesn’t matter where it is, across the state communities like yours are fighting against this kind of commercialisation, and frankly, privatisation of these very precious places. 

It has to stop. 

I’m very happy to be here with you today. Thank you.’


The Hon. Penny Sharpe at the 2023 Barrenjoey Rally

President of the Palm Beach Whale Beach Association Prof. Richard West AM said on behalf of members as Pittwater Online went to press,

‘’The PBWBA is pleased that this plan will not be going ahead. We congratulate the State government and the Hon. Penny Sharpe for listening to the community.’’

Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the Lightkeepers cottages are the oldest intact buildings in Pittwater. It is important these be preserved for their Heritage and for our children and children’s children.

The Barrenjoey Headland is one of the few remaining lighthouses the people of Sydney and thousands of visitors from overseas may readily access. The views in all directions are second to none, the bushland that surrounds these buildings allows people to come into contact with nature in a pristine environment and the Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Keepers Cottages allow people to step into the shoes of those who first served on this headland from the 1860’s on.

Not only is Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the Lightkeepers cottages a landmark and beacon for Pittwater, this iconic site is known and celebrated all over the world.

To have a state government that recognises these values to those who live here and those who visit from all over Sydney and all over the world, and is intent on keeping them as they should be, is a boon for our community and NSW itself.

The PBWBA would also like to thank all those in the community who have supported keeping these cottages and the Barrenjoey Lighthouse precinct as a public place for all. Heritage listed buildings and National Park areas should be kept for the benefit of ALL people.''

The community has welcomed the answers achieved through the persistence of Pittwater MP Rory Amon but are still cautious, awaiting the formalisation of the 2022 Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves Draft Plan of Management to read what it contains.

However, it is worth noting this quote from The Hon. Penny Sharpe, as provided by the NSW EPA, is in step with Pittwater community aspirations. 

The Minister was first elected to the NSW Legislative Council in October 2005. She has a passion for the environment and is committed to policy reform and action.

Protection and care of our environment, and respect for and celebration of our heritage is core business for state governments. It is a responsibility that comes with great opportunities, some serious challenges, but the knowledge that when we get it right, we are passing on a better future for those that come after us. - The Hon. Penny Sharpe

Photos: 2023 Barrenjoey Rally

Pittwater MP Rory Amon speaking at 2023 Barrenjoey Rally


Australia Day 2024 Honours List

Council's 2024 Citizen of the Year is Jimmy Arteaga. (l to r) Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell and MRNSW Broken Bay Unit Commander Jimmy Arteaga at the Commissioning of MRB21 the BungareePhoto: AJG/PON

His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia announced Honours and Awards for 1,042 Australians, including awards in the Order of Australia (General and Military Divisions), meritorious awards and recognition for distinguished and conspicuous service.

“I would like to congratulate the outstanding Australians recognised in today’s Honours List.

“The calibre of the recipients reflects the strength of our communities. Read or watch their stories and you can’t help but be optimistic about Australia.

“To all recipients – I hear statements like ‘I don’t do this for recognition or to get a medal’ all the time. I know that you too may wish to deflect attention or brush of praise.

“Well, today, your country has decided that you deserve recognition and to be celebrated.

“Please enjoy the moment and know that you have the thanks and respect of your nation. Congratulations.” His Excellency said

Local recognitions announced in the Australia Day 2024 Honours List include four new AMs, nine OAMs, two PSMs and one Australian Police Medal (APM) in the General Division for a gentleman who commenced his career in the New South Wales Police Force at Dee Why.  Two former Pittwater Woman of the Year awardees feature in this years' honours.

An impressive array of local heroes were recognised on Thursday, 25 January 2024 at Councils' Australia Day Awards ceremony held at Glen Street Theatre.

The Awards celebrate the contributions of individuals and organisations who have dedicated their time to serving the community.  Many recipients have devoted over 10-20 years to their cause; several have campaigned on safety and inclusivity issues, while others have saved lives.

Council's Citizen of the Year is Jimmy Arteaga. Jimmy is the Unit Commander for Broken Bay Marine Rescue. In the past year, he has overseen the rescue of many vessels and people in the Pittwater/Broken Bay area, bringing them to safety. He is responsible for more than 90 volunteers. His drive and dedication have enabled Marine Rescue Broken Bay to have a wonderful new state-of-the-art building now in keeping with the rest of Marine Rescue facilities in NSW.

Full details run as this Issues' Profile/s of the Week HERE


Bush To Beach 2024

Having fun at South Narrabeen SLSC. Photo: Duncan Schieb

South Narrabeen SLSC is home to the 2024 Bush to Beach from Friday 26th January to Sunday 28th January, with around 35 outback kids involved in a three-day surf camp to learn new skills, build confidence, and experience an environment unlike the one they know.

This will be the 19th year Bush to Beach has been hosted by South Narrabeen SLSC.

Since the program began, almost one thousand children from northwest NSW have attended a Bush to Beach camp. The program participants must attend school throughout the year to take part, and, as a result, Brewarrina and surrounding areas have reported reduced truancy.

South Narrabeen Surf Lifesaving Club President Duncan Schieb said yesterday (Saturday January 27th) the youngsters had been given the ‘full Col to Narra experience so far’ with lessons in both Collaroy and North Narrabeen rock pools and playing right along the beach – a cricket match, the usual handstands and cartwheels in soft sand, along with learning about surf and water safety.

‘’These kids are amazing, ‘’ Duncan said, ‘’when they arrived on Friday many had not seen the ocean before but they loved it, immediately.

‘’The smiles on their faces are just awesome, and they are just really enjoying being here. My kids, I have 4, have been with them all weekend and they’re having a great time together.’’

‘’To see these youngsters giving themselves this opportunity, by attending school, is just wonderful. South Narrabeen Surf Lifesaving Club is stoked to be able to be a part of this.’’

‘’They jumped straight in and got their swim proficiency for Nippers. Their fun weekend ahead includes learning to surf, snorkelling, beach sports, surfing education.’’

Photo: Duncan Schieb



Summer In Pittwater 

Remo and Alexandra Adoncello, UAV Pilots, are on duty this Season across our beaches. Photo: A J Guesdon
South Avalon Beach on Australia Day.  Photo: A J Guesdon
North Avalon Beach on Australia Day.  Photo: A J Guesdon

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