Lifesavers back local club set-up in Margs

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Redgate Beach.
Camera IconRedgate Beach. Credit: Stephen Scourfield

Surf Life Saving WA has backed a recommendation by the Department of Parks and Wildlife saying swimmers should avoid unpatrolled beaches, despite lifeguards serving only one break in the shire.

Following last week’s report outlining how growing visitor numbers were forcing the region’s surfers and operators to act as de facto lifeguards, SLSWA said it would welcome Margaret River setting up its own lifesaving club — similar to the model for volunteer-run groups at Cape Naturaliste.

“SLSWA is keen to rally interest in the development of a surf club in the Margaret River area and is investigating the long-term viability,” an SLSWA spokeswoman said.

SLSWA has a small shed at Gnarabup housing rescue equipment, though the nearest established surf lifesaving club was at Smiths Beach.

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Preliminary discussions showed a demand for juniors training, education and beach patrols.

“However, it does require significant commitment from locals and the community,” the spokeswoman said.

Corporate and community services director Annie Riordan said the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River took part in an initial concept discussion and would meet with SLSWA if the club idea was pursued.

“The Shire recognises the importance of water safety and support SLSWA in promoting these skills in the community,” she said.

Figures provided from Westpac Lifesaver rescue helicopter patrols supported testimony from surfers that incidents were on the rise.

Last season, the South West service ran 345 patrols and gave 121 direct warnings for beachgoers to exit the water.

The 2015-16 patrols log of 396 hours was similar to 2014-15 in which 113 warnings were issued, and up from 2013-14 where patrols flew 278 hours and gave 21 warnings. Tellingly, shark sightings were on the steady increase with 390 during the last financial year, up from 229 in 2014-15 and 117 in 2013-14.

Last week, surf operators from Josh Palmateer Surf Academy and Margaret River Surf School confirmed they were under increasing pressure to provide rescues when working at unpatrolled beaches.

SLSWA reiterated DPaW’s instruction for beachgoers to inform themselves of the region’s risks.

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