Families of shark attack victims to be consulted

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull will consult the families of victims of fatal shark attacks off the Dunedin coast in the 1960s and 1970s, before it is decided if a memorial plaque is appropriate.

Councillors at yesterday's council community development committee were to discuss the idea of a memorial plaque at the St Clair Esplanade, after one was offered as a donation by Levin businessman Barry Watkins (56).

A staff report to yesterday's meeting asked councillors to decide whether to accept the offer, and to settle on a location for the plaque if they did.

However, councillors voted to leave the matter on the table, after it was confirmed families of some of the victims had not yet been contacted.

Cr John Bezett said that concerned him, as the families of victims were the first people who should be consulted.

Instead, Mr Cull would contact the families to see if they wanted a memorial plaque installed, before any decision to proceed was made, councillors decided.

The offer to donate the plaque by Mr Watkins had aimed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his own attack, he told the Otago Daily Times in January.

On March 30, 1971, Mr Watkins - then a 16-year-old and skipping school - was surfing off the coast near the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool.

"I remember being hit and the board ending up in two halves ... I didn't feel anything after that."

The attack was the last of five off the Dunedin coast in the 1960s and early 1970s, which some experts believed were the work of one rogue shark.

The attacks resulted in the deaths of Les Jordan at St Clair in 1964, Bill Black at St Kilda in 1967 and Graham Hitt at Aramoana in 1968.

The plaque Mr Watkins offered would be black marble, with names and the dates and "Lost to great white sharks" inscribed on it, he said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

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