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Swellnet ordered to remove Fishos’ surf cam

June 9, 2022 BY

Surf forecaster Swellnet was ordered to switch off and remove the camera its surveillance camera from Fishermans Beach that was installed without consent.

SURF forecaster Swellnet’s CCTV at Fishermans Beach in Torquay is the latest to court controversy after the area’s land manager ordered the company to immediately switch it off and take it down within days of the camera going live last week.

The Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCAPA) said the camera at the Torquay Marine Rescue Service building was installed without its knowledge or consent, or consent under the Marine and Coastal Act.

“We have directed that the cameras at Fishermans Beach be turned off immediately and removed,” a GORCAPA spokesperson said.

“We will continue to investigate the circumstances of other CCTV cameras that have been installed without consent.”

In May, the Surf Coast Shire said it was “investigating” Swellnet’s Winkipop surf camera that went live around the time of this year’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, but has since said the installation on private premises means the shire is powerless to act despite the surveillance of public space and Crown land under the shire’s management.

“Because the surf cam at Winkipop is on private freehold land zoned low density residential, planning and building permits were not required for its installation and use,” Surf Coast acting general manager of placemaking and environment Matt Taylor said.

According to the shire’s Public Space Closed Circuit Television Policy, parties seeking to install cameras in public places must comply with all relevant laws, of which seven Acts and Standards are listed.

These include the Privacy and Data Protection Act and Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, which contain provisions for the right to privacy.

The shire’s policy further states that “before implementing CCTV, the organisation proposing installation should engage with stakeholders that would be affected to ensure they are comfortable with CCTV” and that “the benefits of surveillance must substantially outweigh any intrusion of privacy”.

Mr Taylor said the policy only applied to public spaces that the shire owned and/or managed.

“The CCTV policy is in place to ensure that council meets legal and regulatory obligations and has a consistent approach to the use of CCTV in public spaces, balancing the need for helping to maintain public safety with people’s right to privacy,” he said.

Swellnet has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the issue, including questions about whether it’s abiding with relevant state laws on CCTV use or engages in any consultation with stakeholders.

The company is also reportedly blocking people from its online forum who leave posts questioning the company’s approach to installing surf cameras.

GORCAPA, soon to take over as land manager along the entire stretch of the Great Ocean Road and surrounds, is notifying leaseholders – including surf clubs – to remind them of their statutory obligations regarding the use and installation of CCTV and surf cameras.