Media statement from the North West Surfing Alliance
AUSTRALIA, 14 September, 2018 - The position and future of world surfing’s cultural integrity lies in the balance on the wave-lashed shores of Western Australia this year.
The Kalbarri Boardriders (KBR) and the collaborative alliance of the original North West Surfing Alliance (NWSA) are opposing any World Surf League (WSL) competitions being held at Jakes Point in Kalbarri, Gnaraloo, or at Red Bluff now and into the future.
By way of background, the KBR were contacted by Surfing WA in early August 2018 and were informed that they were exploring all options to pick a site - and ‘sacred’ Jakes Point (a National Surfing Reserve) was considered option #1 for a global WSL event; so KBR held an immediate meeting where a unanimous decision was made not to support any WSL competition being held at Jakes Point as per our club Constitution.
The Surfing WA (SWA) representatives met with the CEO and President of the local Shire of Northampton the next day and KBR were asked to attend this meeting. It was agreed at this meeting that all future dealings would be “open and transparent”.
However, this was not to be the case as, of most recent and subsequent meetings, KBR/NWSA were excluded from meetings held with the Northampton Shire, the regional local government body.
On 24 August 2018, the CEO of the Northampton Shire informed a representative advocate on our behalf, by telephone, that the meeting between the Shire and Surfing Western Australia, the WSL, or Tourism WA was (verbatim quote) “private”. As a result, the NSWA is intending to lodge (as of 17 September 2018) a formal Freedom of Information request seeking that the Shire of Northampton deliver within 45 days, the true and accurate record of discussions between these inter-related state and local government funded entities, which are claimed by (NS) to be unavailable and undisclosable to the general public or the surfing community, locally or nationally.
Information from any (secret) meeting between a government-funded body (SWA) and any senior local government officers (Shire of Northampton) under legislative provisions of the Western Australian Local Government Act should be made available to the public.
We feel this is a violation of the trust that was given in our initial dealings with SWA and now, as major stakeholders of our home surfing break, we feel like we have been excluded from all discussions.
This behaviour is not democratic, improper and in our view, entirely ‘un-Australian’.
On the 21st March 2010 a National Surfing Reserve was enshrined in Kalbarri with the imprimatur of the then WA state government with Speaker of the House, the Hon. Grant Woodhams MLA and Mr Brad Farmer, founder and chairman of National Surfing Reserves unveiled the official Declaration plaque at the Reserve. Its zone comprising the beaches from Jakes point to the Murchison river mouth with the full, ‘signed-off’ community involvement and support.
The States and Commonwealth backed Surfing Reserves program exists to recognise iconic sites of intrinsic social, historic, environmental and cultural importance to Australian surfing. All 23 prestigious Surfing Reserves in Australia have had the backing of Governors, Ministers of State, Mayors and Prime Ministers. In fact, the current Australia Prime Minister, Scott Morrison MP is the Patron of the Cronulla National Surfing Reserve.
This particular reserve at Kalbarri was endorsed by the state government, the Northampton Shire, our community and significantly the local Aboriginal Nunda elders.
The Kalbarri Board Riders have a long history and we are now second and third generation surfers, who, like our forefathers, on this limited capacity break (~8) are carrying on family traditions. We spread the ashes of our departed family and loved ones at Jakes Point, for that reason and many intrinsic others, we and National Surfing Reserves consider this iconic spot ‘sacred’.
We have protected and revegetated the area over many years. We have always volunteered our services at all the beaches and across our tight-knit town for various projects that require members of the community to help out and pitch in.
The accusation that we, the surfing community, do not want tourism is false.
We are in favour of ecologically and socially sustainable tourism. We do not wish to hurt the tourism reputation of Kalbarri as most of us make a living from it in some form or another.
The surfers from Kalbarri are active members of the local community and are made up of local business owners, tourism operators, emergency volunteers, nurses, fisherman, holiday accommodation owners, builders, farmers - just to name a few.
If you take a moment and think about why members of the community have found themselves in Kalbarri it’s for two main reasons: the excellent remote surf experience; or lure of work from the cray fishing industry.
Now that the cray fishing industry has gone from 20 boats down to just five, people have had to find other ways to earn a living but have stayed put, because of the surfing lifestyle that we all have grown to love.
There has never been a professional surfing contest at Jakes and through the years this laidback way of life has been passed down from generations and we have come to accept that and embrace it. KBR don’t even have our own boardriders events at Jakes. Once a year KBR holds a Memorial Day at Jakes to remember our friends that have passed and this year we have had to cancel that - because we are dealing with this unwelcome issue.
Having said that, there are a lot of good surfers in town, some have gone onto surfing careers, but most are just happy to surf for fun. For all of us that have got into professional surfing we have always done it elsewhere. There have been events in the past organized by the locals, but basically novelty events for the locals and their travelling friends.
Jakes Point is no secret, neither is Gnaraloo and Red Bluff (Quobba). If genuine surfers want to travel to these remote places, we welcome it. As pioneer travelling surfers, we all know the rules and respect is shown to the locals where ever you may travel to in Australia or the world.
If a place is special to your hearts and you live your life dedicated to this place, then a certain amount of respect has to be shown to the people who do.
To take away the voice and the educated opinions of the main custodians of Jakes is ‘offensive’ and disrespectful to say the least.
If there is a proposal to hold a surfing event in a certain area, first and foremost, ask the local surfers or local boardrider club of the region. National Surfing Reserves provide that ‘surfers will have primacy in any decision that may (adversely) affect the surfing amenity or experience’ and that has been upheld and endorsed across Australia and the world.
If the local surfers or local boardrider club say yes to an event or activity on any scale at the surf break, then it proceeds subject to any required legalities. If they say no, respect their wishes especially if the vote is by majority or unanimous. We wouldn’t hold a massive golf tournament at the local golf club; if the local club said no or did not have the carrying capacity or wish world attention and crowds they could not sustainably service.
We understand some local business owners are in favour of the event and we respect their reasons, however we resolutely believe they should also respect our reasons since this is a surfing event-activity and we are the local surfing community.
Jakes Point cannot support a huge crowd and the proposal to hold a WSL event here is just too big and too soon for our little town. KBR feels we should have rights to ‘say no and be heard’ by our local Shire, the State Government and the SWA.
We have engaged the services of Dr Indre Kirsten Asmussen to prepare an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the area to compare the social and environmental impacts that this event would have on the town to show how committed we are to our stance. This is her comments on the issue –
“At Margaret River over $6 million has been spent to upgrade Surfers Point to cater for the surf contest, and the Cape to Cape tourism region manages visitor access well. To bring Jakes and the surrounding area to a standard, where it could cater for an international event would require significant investment - to minimise impact of the contest on the site and visitor access to the region. To date, the Shire of Northampton, has invested little on environmental and visitor management outside the National Park. A draft Coastal Management Strategy exists but has still not been implemented. Similarly, visitor access to Pink Lake (our premier international tourism destination) is poorly managed. We cannot proceed with such disregard for the environment. Jakes Point should be designed for the community not a contest, likely to depart for another wave in the near future, leaving the region with the maintenance costs (like Margaret River)”. Dr Indre Asmussen B.Sc. First class honours, PhD (Ecology)
We feel deeply for Margaret River and support them in trying to keep the contest down there. It is a prestigious event and has a lot of history and has been getting better and better since it has added the Box and North Point to the format. The amount of money ($4-6m AUD) in infrastructure to get main break up to the WSL standard to be ripped out from under them and told it might be moving is a devastating blow for them.
It is also why we urge Tourism WA and our Northampton Shire Council and the State ALP McGowan government to proceed with caution in the dealing with this. Who is to say they (WSL, SWA and global media network viewers) won’t get bored with Kalbarri after one year, leaving us with the socially divisive and environmental aftermath to deal with. There are clearly too many unknowns that can’t be answered.
SWA, Tourism WA and the WSL cannot guarantee any detrimental environmental and social impacts on our town.If such a contest changes our surf breaks and beaches for the worst, the damage is most likely irreversible.
The KBR are also members of the North West Surfing Alliance which unites Kalbarri, Carnarvon and Exmouth boardriders to support the preservation and protection of similar beaches and coastline from Kalbarri to the North West Cape (Exmouth). It was formed in 2007 and still stands today.
They have tried this once before in 2007/08 to run the ‘Rip Curl Pro Event’ at Gnaraloo and this is why the NWSA was created. The petition to the Premier at the time received support of over 3,500 signatures, who agreed that the area was too special, and that commercialisation was not welcome. This event did not go ahead due to a variety of reason’s one being, “Rip Curl apparently stated its unwillingness to make the required full financial investment needed to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment study to the standard, scope and detail required.” (Gnaraloo Station Media Release, April 2009)
The KBR united with the NWSA now call on the support of everyone who would like to join our voice to respect, protect and preserve Jakes Point, Gnaraloo and Red Bluff (Quobba) so genuine travelling recreational surfers can enjoy them in their natural ‘spiritual’ state for years to come.
To let the corporatised WSL walk over us and disrespect the wishes of people that have built their lives around these places will set a dangerous precedent that they can do pretty much whatever they want whenever and wherever they want - and that just can’t happen.