Editorial: This is how we like our dramas

Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014

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Dramas without death tolls? Highly preferable.

In recent days the southern coast has had two shark attacks and a fishing boat sinking, yet in each case the participants have emerged, if not always unscathed, then at least still alive.

It's a welcome respite from the nightmarish run of child deaths and serious injuries in farms, households and coastal waters that marked the very start of 2014 in the south.

The first of the more recent spasm of mishaps was, we grant you, about as merry as a shark attack story has any right to be.

Southland Hospital junior doctor James Grant, spearfishing at Golden Bay near Cosy Nook, was bitten, not all that badly, before fighting off the shark.

Drawing precisely no support from his disbelieving and cheerfully unconcerned companions he stitched up his own wounds ashore, then stopping off at the Colac Bay pub before heading to hospital.

As you do.

The international media attention was considerable. The world's press might not be familiar with the term "hard-case story" but they certainly recognise its componentry.

Such stories, legitimate as they are, can tend to trivialise danger if we lose a sense of broader context. And sure enough, as if to wipe that smile off people's faces, a second attack happened.

This one, at Porpoise Bay Beach, was by any measure an uglier one.

A surfer was bitten three times, from his thigh to his calf, and lost a lot of blood. His condition was quickly stabilised but suddenly the cautionary aspects of having more people splashing about recreationally in warmer - and sharked-up - waters at this time of year seem more compelling.

We must hope the same can be said for the safety the tips that readers might have glossed over previously.

Say it with us: Treat any shark longer than 1.5 metres as dangerous and leave the water quickly and quietly.

Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk or night. Don't swim where seagulls or dolphins are feeding, where there are shoals of fish, where people are fishing or gutting their catch, or where there are deeper tidal channels.

Some would say it's simpler than all of that. Stay out of the sea. But it does beckon powerfully, particularly in summer. The undaunted should, at very least, be vigilant.

For neither the first nor last time we have cause to contrast our own situation with that of the Aussies.

Thousands of West Australians have rallied to protest what they see as the overkill of the state government catch-and-kill policy introduced after a string of fatal attacks in recent years had dented tourism.

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And now, to cap off a sense of could-have-been-worse dramas, Bluffies who have suffered so extravagantly from fishing boat losses in recent years have a textbook rescue to celebrate.

Nobody likes to see a boat go down but the the instant the Ayson hit rocks near Stirling Point around 3am on Friday seems also to have been the instant when things stopped going wrong.

What followed was a sweetly by-the-book rescue. The sense of relief and gratitude in the community was unmissable.

Given the benign conditions and the proximity to shore, this was hardly likely to be a rescue to cruelly expose the shortcomings of the Bluff Coastguard's craft, but that risk remains present and unacceptable.

The campaign to raise $1.2 million to buy a fit-for-purpose boat for the more harrowing conditions has been well-supported so far, now knocking around $700,000, but it's absolutely a campaign the community needs to see home.

And as quickly as possible.

- The Southland Times

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