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‘Life or death’: Belmore and Gerringong Falls warning released over dangerous act ‘fuelled by social media’

‘Life or death’: Belmore and Gerringong Falls warning released over dangerous act ‘fuelled by social media’
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The unstable rock faces, dangerous cliff edges, and slippery surfaces at the base of Belmore Falls and Gerringong Falls have been cause for a number of fatalities in the state’s south.

But that hasn’t stopped thrill seekers, nature lovers and content creators from illegally accessing the stunning but restricted areas, a growing trend which national parks authorities say has been “fuelled by social media”.

Now, NSW Police and the National Parks Wildlife Service (NPWS) have announced they will be cracking down on illegal access over the summer.

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They will be patrolling the falls and handing out fines to anyone they find in the restricted areas.

“A penalty notice of $300 applies for persons being in a section of park that is closed,” an NPSW spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au.

“The number of serious injuries and deaths at the waterfalls have significantly increased over the last few years with the increase of social media.”

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Though the collection of images on social media from Gerringong Falls is saturated with those taken from the base, the spokesperson said: “NPWS has never provided access to the base of Gerringong Falls.”

“There are no formal walking tracks or any infrastructure leading to the base.”

Belmore Falls did once have an access track to the base, but it is understood this was closed about five years ago.

A number of social media posts featuring the falls include the influencers’ tips on how to access the restricted areas, with one describing the route down to the base of Gerringong Falls as a “very challenging” hike “off the beaten track.”

Another said, “I’ve done this hike five or six times, and it’s easy to get lost.”

In multiple videos, influencers directly instruct their audiences to jump fences and ignore signs warning of danger.

Visits to the base of Gerringong Falls are commonly shared on social media, despite the swimming spot being illegal to access and home to many dangers. Credit: TikTokInstructional videos posted on social media encourage audiences to jump fences and ignore warning signs to reach the restricted base of Belmore Falls. Credit: TikTok

NPWS area manager Graham Bush added that selling the search for the perfect swimming selfie is encouraging foot traffic in high-risk areas.

“Signs warning of the dangers and prohibiting access are installed at both waterfalls. However, visitors continue to walk past and ignore these warnings and attempt to access the base of the falls,” Bush said.

“There is no bushwalking access to the base of Belmore and Gerringong Falls. These areas are dangerous and there is a high risk of injury or death.

“The hazards are very real to both the public and emergency service workers who risk their lives responding to people who have slipped, sadly often fatally.

“Visitors can still walk to the top of the falls and take in the spectacular views, but we don’t want one more person to lose their life for the sake of a selfie.”

NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) called it “a matter of life or death.”

Bush recommended nature lovers looking for a place to swim, enjoy the safer locations in the state’s national parks.

“Those wanting to cool down this summer are best to head to a patrolled beach or other nearby waterways, such as the Shoalhaven River,” he said.

“Visitors can still walk to the top of the falls and take in the spectacular views, but we don’t want one more person to lose their life for the sake of a selfie.”

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