Surfers decry lack of Pro transparency
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.
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