Safety alert for 100,000 visitors

HANGING AROUND: The Swift Water Recue helicopter performing a demonstration rescue.
HANGING AROUND: The Swift Water Recue helicopter performing a demonstration rescue. Sarah Harvey

IPSWICH doesn't have the endless golden beaches or the gateway to Moreton Bay, but it does have a lot of dams.

More than 100,000 water-skiers, fisherman, canoeists and campers will crowd the banks of popular spots such as Wivenhoe, Somerset and Moogerah dams with their tents and swags and caravans this Christmas.

The region's police, firefighters and SEQWater rangers will take charge of the massive job of trying to ensure holiday-makers play it as safe as possible over the end-of-year break.

In addition to crews of water police, who will travel from the Port of Brisbane to patrol dams across the Ipswich district, traffic branch police from various divisions, as well as rangers, will be on the lookout for anyone doing the wrong thing.

Water supply Minister Mark McArdle officially launched the "Be Dam Smart" safety campaign at Wivenhoe Dam's popular Logan's Inlet recreational area yesterday.

About 500 enthusiastic school kids, mainly from Ipswich, were invited to the launch, in the hope that they would pass the message up to parents and family members.

"You are the ones who will eventually run this great state and we want to keep you safe," Mr McArdle told the students.

SEQWater manager Jim Pruss said about 4000 camping permits had been issued for the Logan's inlet area for the school holidays, with 160 boat permits at Wivenhoe and about 3000 at Somerset Dam.

"With so many people out there, safety is extremely important for everyone who uses the dam," Mr Pruss said.

Brisbane water police's Senior Sergeant Warren Francis said the most common offence that boaties committed was neglecting basic safety equipment such as life jackets.

"I am pleased to say that, while we do lots of breath tests, we don't get a lot of drink-driving on the water," Snr Sgt Francis said.

"Most people seem to recognise the risks and we hope it stays that way.

"The rules for drink-driving on the water are the same as those that apply to driving on the road."

Hannah's Foundation co-founder Andrew Plint was also at the launch to show his support for the safety campaign.

He said that while dams always looked benign from a distance, there was always the risk of hidden dangers underneath.

"Your lifejacket is your seatbelt on the water," Mr Plint said. "I think that if you can educate kids about this so that the first thing they do when they hit the water is put their PFD on, it becomes a habit and it gets passed on to the next generation."

Topics:  moogerah dam seqwater somerset dam wivenhoe dam

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