There's water everywhere in Manly. People can't resist being in it or on it - or jumping into it from a rock.
One rock in particular is a problem. It's known as Jump Rock, not far from Collins Beach. It's a magnet for kids of all ages on the weekends, and while most people jump and land successfully, there have been two deaths and at least two serious injuries over the past 15 years.
In 2007 Manly Council tried to discourage jumpers by building a metal fence to block access to the rock overhang.
But it hasn't worked in quite the way it was meant. The fence is easy to climb around, and probably makes the rock more dangerous as it drastically limits space on the rock edge. Even worse, the top of the fence top - a slippery metal rail - is used as a high-risk diving board by people who find the natural 5m drop too tame.
A different set of problems apply to a lower (3m drop) rock overhang, a few metres below and to the side of Jump Rock. This one really is completely fenced off, meaning that people no longer have the choice of a high or a low jump. If they're going to do it, it has to be the 5m full monty.
There are also reports of people being injured jumping from an alternate rock overhang about 25m closer to the beach, where they would land in shallower water than the original jump rock site. The Manly Daily reported a teenager injured jumping from this overhang in January last year.
When we raised the Jump Rock issue on the Good For Manly Facebook page the response was massive. The post was seen by 2,400 people in the first 24 hours. Comments were that the jump was really pretty safe although the fence made things more risky. Some people thought the Council did need to take some safety measures, but no one supported the fence in its current state.
In 2009 the Council considered, but did not pursue, alternatives to the current fencing arrangement, including making the fence harder to get around or harder to use as a high-dive board. It also considered demolishing the rock platform entirely but decided that was inappropriate.
As well, the Council surveyed residents in nearby Stuart St. Only twelve surveys were returned, and the reported results are inconclusive. Three people said the situation was worse. Three said it was better, and two said the fence made no difference. However, there seemed to be support for some form of fencing, with some residents saying there was now much less night jumping, so quieter nights and less vandalism, litter and bad behaviour overall. Some residents were worried about people getting hurt when jumping from the top of the fence.
Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham raised the issue at the March council meeting and the matter is to be reviewed. She queried whether the current fencing in fact made the site more dangerous as kids where using the fence the jump and dive from.
Up to 2009 Manly Council had spent $26,000 on the fence.
Have you jumped from the Rock? Do you think the fences should be removed?
Is the fencing at Jump Rock just making the area more dangerous? Watch this Channel 7 news report and you be the judge.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.