Future Of Margaret River Pro In Limbo
The future of Western Australia's premier surfing event is in limbo after local residents objected to the continued staging of the Margaret River Pro.
The annual event has been a fixture on the ASP and WSL calendar more than thirty years, and draws the cream of international surfing and thousands of spectators to Margaret River and the surrounding South West each year.
But with the World Surf League's five-year permit to hold the event in Margaret River now up for review, the Shire of Augusta Margaret River has reserved its decision on whether to continue its support for the event from next year on.
A period of public consultation that finished in October drew 69 objections, 48 statements of support, and 24 indifferent responses.
"While the Margaret River Pro attracts widespread community support each year; submissions received during the consultation process raised several important issues," a Shire spokesperson said.
"Broadly, the objections raised concerns about the length of the contest, public access to the foreshore and recreational areas, impact from the use of North Point, the use of Surfers Point over Easter, and the licensed area."
While the event is fully funded for next year, council support is still required for the competition organisers to access the public land and infrastructure where the competition takes place.
The WSL has made a variety of community support commitments as part of it's ongoing proposal, including environmental and recycling programs on site, the engagement of local suppliers and businesses and the general promotion of the region's tourist attractions in the lead-up to the event.
'It doesn't have that small atmosphere anymore'
While Margaret River has played a central role in WA's surf culture, and trades on its beachside image, residents have shown an increasing tendency to object to development in recent years.
More than 300 locals petitioned against the construction of specialist disability accommodation in November last year, citing the loss of a dog exercise area, amongst other objections.
While the Shire joined with residents to block the construction of a 92-person childcare centre in June, citing the potential impact on local amenity.
Denmark-based surfing instructor Mike Neunuebel said he understood people's frustrations about the Pro. "Margaret River is crowded now, to the locals, because of all the people who live there," he said.
"I wouldn't say it's ruined, but it doesn't have that small atmosphere anymore."
But he said it would be a short-sighted move to allow the vocal outcry to end the tournament. "It brings an incredible amount of international publicity to Margaret River," Mr Neunuebel said. "It would take a lot of international significance away from Western Australia; Margaret River is the best place to run that comp."
Dunsborough surfer and surfboard shaper Zac Ogram said the loss of the event would devestate the local surfing community.
"It's always been a good opportunity for the young crew coming through to get a glimpse of the world's best surfers," he said. "You see it every year: all the kids down there watching, then five or six years later you see them pushing boundaries and entering the trials to get into the pro."
The council will finalise its position at its December 13 meeting.
// JACQUELINE LYNCH and PETER BARR
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