World Surf League Margaret River Pro secures five-year Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council approval

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The World Surf League's support for local surfers, including Willow Hardy, pictured, was among the factors behind the council approval.
Camera IconThe World Surf League's support for local surfers, including Willow Hardy, pictured, was among the factors behind the council approval. Credit: Salt Diaries/RegionalHUB

The Margaret River Pro will safely continue for the next five years, expanding back to include North Point, after councillors surprised no one by giving the signature world-class event their backing last week.

Community consultation on the Pro’s permits for the next five years coincided with pushback from some veteran surfers sick of the time organisers took to run the event while restricting access to Surfers Point.

There were also concerns in the Gracetown community about the World Surf League reincorporating North Point as a last-minute option in case conditions softened during the contest at Surfers Point.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River advertising netted 141 submissions and a significant 69 objections to the permits, as well as 24 people on the fence.

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But heavyweights including the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association and Margaret River Business Network spoke at the Wednesday, December 13 meeting to voice strong support for the international event seen as a key pillar in the region’s brand.

Those groups including WSL event manager Steve McGough listed economic, social and environmental benefits from the Pro which councillors backed unanimously in their decision.

Shire president Julia Meldrum said the local economy would gain “beyond” the $8.9 million estimated expenditure during the Pro.

“Possibly the best part of the Pro is how it inspires the young people in our community especially when they can watch homegrown talent, such as Jack Robinson or Bronte Macaulay compete against the world’s best at one of our local breaks,” she said in a statement after the meeting.

“Through a range of community initiatives local rising surf stars are also given the opportunity to paddle out with their heroes, or work alongside the athletes in local conservation projects.”

The five-year permits locks in the Point and the Box for 31 days during the 11-day event window, while North Point was an option for two days of surfing.

Mr McGough said North Point was an “extreme back-up mobile location”.

“We’re aware of the impacts and will continue to work in good faith to minimise those impacts and maximise the benefits,” he said.

Cape-to-Cape Explorer Tours owner Gene Hardy also spoke to back the Pro, pointing to a long family history intertwined with the surfing event and his daughters’ rising success in the professional sport.

“It (the Pro) provided a springboard for a whole generation of the Margaret River surfers,” he said.

Objections went beyond some surfers feeling slighted by exclusion from home breaks.

Feedback singled out the event’s licensed area, and perceived environmental impacts from the contest as well as attending crowds.

Cr Meldrum said the Shire and organisers had worked together to address areas of major concern.

The Shire president said the Pro “was an extension of the widely embraced surfing culture which includes travelling to breaks around the world and experiencing new cultures”.

“As a region, we are known for our generosity, and the Pro provides a great opportunity to share our space and the ‘gifts’ of the region,” she said.

MRBN chief executive Annie McFie welcomed the approval and said she looked forward to working with stakeholders to maintain the community benefits.

“Surfing is a huge part of our local identity, and it is a great source of excitement and pride to host this world-class event,” she said.

Next year would be the Pro’s 40th anniversary.

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