Alert on shark safety
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam says the WA Government has abandoned the State’s shark mitigation policy, redirecting funding to subsidies for personal shark devices instead of drum lines.
Labor Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly rejected the claim, saying $250,000 in funding had been “reprioritised” and not pulled from the shark response policy.
Mr Kelly said funding had dou- bled for shark mitigation across the forward estimates compared with the previous government, though the Times understands drum lines would be a last resort based on assessment by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development personnel even in the case of a shark attack.
Mrs Mettam said the Budget news meant the Government was “walking away from the public safety concerns surrounding this issue”. “We have now also seen the removal of funds which were dedicated to removing sharks that were an imminent threat, which on the ground will see a reduction of $250,000 per year, which sees the effective cancellation of shark hazard mitigation,” she told the Times.
The funding move replaced the policy “with a rebate scheme for a personal device for those who can either afford or have faith in a commercial product”, she said.
Mrs Mettam said she knew few surfers in the Capes region with such devices, which were yet to be proven.
A DPIRD spokeswoman said the serious threat policy remained, but would be subject to assessment by officers rather than triggering deployment of baited lines after a shark attack. The separate imminent threat policy of annual drum lines was discontinued in 2014.
Mr Kelly said previous funding of $5.3 million across four years
had increased under Labor to $10.8 million.
“The $250,000 . . . has not been removed, but instead reprioritised, as it was budgeted for by the previous Liberal-National government for their serious threat guidelines,” he said.
“The McGowan Government has amended the serious threat guidelines so that drum lines are not automatically deployed.
“This decision was made to focus on more effective measures that are proven to reduce the likelihood of a shark attack occurring in the first place.
“The costs associated with the deployment of drum lines have now been reallocated to other shark hazard mitigation strategies, including funds for a new beach enclosure at Falcon Beach and the trial shark deterrent subsidy,” Mr Kelly said.
He said the Government was focused on science-based approaches, continuing funding for Surf Life Saving aerial and beach patrols “after the former LiberalNational government failed to allocate appropriate funding beyond June 30 this year” and extended WA’s shark monitoring network to Esperance.
Mr Kelly said trial anti-shark devices gave “genuine protection to the people who are most at risk”.
Surf Life Saving WA spokesman Chris Peck said the organisation welcomed a further two years funding, providing aerial patrols as well as managing rescue operations for Yallingup, Meelup, Bunker Bay and Smiths Beach.
City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said the two enclosures delivered by the previous government meant the change in priorities would have little effect.
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River did not respond to inquiries.