Surfers de­cry lack of Pro trans­parency

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

WA surf­ing lead­ers are call­ing for more trans­parency from the WA Gov­ern­ment af­ter they say re­sults from a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion in­quiry yielded ev­i­dence of on­go­ing talks about mov­ing the Mar­garet River Pro to Kal­barri.

Rep­re­sent­ing Kal­barri’s North West Surfers Al­liance, Na­tional Surf­ing Re­serves founder Brad Farmer said nei­ther com­mu­nity wanted the Pro to leave Mar­garet River af­ter next year and tourism au­thor­i­ties had to come clean on their plans.

“World Surf League, Tourism WA and Surf­ing WA (are) clearly lob­by­ing the Shire of Northamp­ton (not Margs) to shift to Kal­barri,” he said.

“It does show that they (your Gov­ern­ment) cer­tainly are not com­mit­ted to your re­gion’s eco­nomic pros­per­ity.”

How­ever, Tourism Min­is­ter Paul Pa­palia said it was a mat­ter for Tourism WA, who in turn again de­clined to re­spond to com­mu­nity con­cerns.

“Due to the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the events in­dus­try, Tourism WA does not com­ment specif­i­cally on po­ten­tial event dis­cus­sions, de­ci­sions or ne­go­ti­a­tions,” a spokes­woman, who de­clined to be named, said.

“Tourism WA has an agree­ment with Surf­ing WA to hold the Mar­garet River Pro in 2019.

“We are in early talks with Surf­ing WA and WSL about fu­ture years.” Re­cently, Surf­ing WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Lane said re­tain­ing the Pro in Mar­garet River was the ul­ti­mate goal.

“We are (not) privy to ev­ery sin­gle dis­cus­sion within the WSL re­gard­ing po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions,” he said.

“Ul­ti­mately, and the re­al­ity of it all, is that all fu­ture de­ci­sions will be made by the WSL as to where all events are held, re­mem­ber­ing they have only just re­leased the 2019 cal­en­dar.”

A brief­ing doc­u­ment was the only item pro­vided un­der the FOI ap­pli­ca­tion, which Mr Farmer crit­i­cised be­cause surfers were not in­volved in the “pri­vate” talks.

“While the shadow min­is­ter for tourism (Mem­ber for Vasse Libby Met­tam) is talk­ing as you’d ex­pect, Paul Pa­palia is quiet, as is TWA, who by their char­ter are meant to be trans­par­ent,” Mr Farmer said.

“I for one don’t be­lieve in this ‘com­mer­cial-in-con­fi­dence’ line they might try.”

The brief­ing doc­u­ment, iden­ti­fied as a “WSL pro­posal”, out­lines the 15 years it took to se­cure World Cham­pi­onship Tour sta­tus for the Pro in Mar­garet River.

The doc­u­ment also boasts a $100 mil­lion eco­nomic in­jec­tion from the Pro dur­ing its life­time.

“(It is) pro­posed that the event would take place in the June 2020 pe­riod,” the doc­u­ment states.

“Min­i­mal event in­fras­truc­ture and du­ra­tion of event to de­crease im­pact on lo­cal surf­ing com­mu­nity.

“Top 32 men and 18 women are con­tracted to com­pete.”

Lo­cal board­rid­ers said the Kal­barri pro­posal was of lit­tle con­cern be­cause it looked un­vi­able, but re­tain­ing the Pro was val­ued for the eco­nomic ben­e­fit — though some said busi­nesses might profit more from down­grad­ing to a qual­i­fy­ing se­ries event be­cause more surfers would come who spent their own money.

Mr Farmer said WA surf­ing risked be­com­ing the play­thing of surf­ing “bil­lion­aires” and in­ter­est from North West surfers was mis­rep­re­sented in the process.

“This clan­des­tine stuff is quite ab­surd and re­veals that a num­ber of play­ers are not be­ing open in their em­ploy with tax­payer­funded en­gage­ments,” he said.

WSL did not ac­knowl­edge me­dia in­quiries.

Thoughts? Email your let­ters to us at ed­i­tor@am­r­times.com.au.

Brad Farmer

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