Ocean rules still likely

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Some Capes residents bemoaned tough restrictions keeping them away from the coast last week.
Camera IconSome Capes residents bemoaned tough restrictions keeping them away from the coast last week.

The Premier has declined to rule out further harsh restrictions limiting locals’ love affair with the ocean, should another lockdown occur.

Last week’s snap five-day lockdown took many by surprise — chief among them ocean-goers cautioned by police after inadvertently breaching the 5km exercise limit.

The ruling meant only those already living within reach of the ocean were able lawfully to go surfing, swimming or dog-walking at the beach. A spokesman for Mark McGowan said the rules around exercise for any future lockdown could vary depending on the circumstances and advice from WA’s chief health officer.

“As always, we continue to follow the expert health advice,” the spokesman said.

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“Every case is different, and our response takes into account the individual circumstances.

“The response of the WA community has been outstanding. The virus is rapidly evolving, and we continue to work to improve our processes to reduce the likelihood of any future outbreaks.”

A WA Police spokesperson confirmed officers patrolled beaches during the lockdown, continuing the agency’s well-received “compliance with compassion approach to policing during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“We want to take an educative approach with our policing,” the spokesperson said.

“However, if someone is being wilfully belligerent, we will take action.”

Police urged ocean-goers to follow the rules during any future lockdown for the sake of keeping the wider community safe.

The restrictions included a one-hour exercise limit with one other person unless from the same family, in which case a five-person limit applied.

Social distancing was also required while in the water, but no masks.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said rangers also patrolled beach carparks and skate parks during the lockdown.

“While Shire rangers do not have the power to enforce the COVID-19 State Government directions, they do have authority to move people away from Shire reserves,” she said.

“Rangers are exercising a common-sense approach in relation to people camping or congregating on Shire land, advising people of the directions and asking people who are not complying to move on.”

The WA Police approach to prosecute only “knuckleheads” was widely lauded during the past fortnight’s enforced mask-wearing.

But residents on the Times Facebook page said the restrictions favoured wealthy residents against those in local subdivisions.

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