Liberals commit $27 million to keep West Australian beachgoers safe

Dec 19, 2020 | Featured Policy, Plan, State News

Drones for all Surf Lifesaving WA clubs, aerial patrols in Esperance, a whale carcass removal strategy, an imminent threat SMART drumline plan and an integrated beach safety warning system are some of the key measures the WA Liberals will fund as part of their $27 million shark mitigation policy to help keep beachgoers safe.

“This plan is about boosting our surf lifesaving capacity, improving our monitoring system and implementing measures to tag and monitor sharks that are an imminent threat,” Liberal leader Zak Kirkup said.

“We can’t afford to invest in just one strategy and hope that it works. Shark mitigation requires a multi-faceted approach to ensure we are being as pro-active as possible.

“This is a plan that includes measures aimed at keeping West Australians as safe as possible today, while also investing in research and technologies for a smarter future.”

Under the plan, the Liberals will fund drones for every WA Surf Lifesaving Club that wants one, along with the appropriate training and support. A further $2.2 million will be made available for bronze medallion surf lifesaving training.

“We know that surf lifesavers are our first line of response in identifying potential hazards and keeping our beaches safe,” Mr Kirkup said.

“Currently, 11 of our 31 Surf Lifesaving Clubs use drones and we want to ensure that all clubs have access to the equipment, training and support to implement this measure across as many WA beaches as possible.

“Bronze medallion surf lifesaving training costs $750 per person and this commitment will ensure that cost is not an impediment for those that wish to undertake this important volunteer role.

“Our comprehensive plan also includes the purchase of eight additional temporary SMART drumlines –two each for the Perth-Mandurah, Margaret River, Esperance and Geraldton regions –to be deployed by Fisheries officers when there is an imminent threat or fatal shark attack.”

Shadow Fisheries Minister Libby Mettam said public safety should be the number one priority – regardless if people were in Perth or in regional WA.

“Our plan will provide for extra VR4 receivers and it will invest in an integrated beach safety warning system that uses information from all the relevant agencies, including fisheries, water police, surf lifesaving and local government, to ensure that beachgoers have a coordinated alert system,” Ms Mettam said.

“Our beach safety alert system can be smarter. We will also be bringing this technology to WA from Canada to ensure real time alerts are faster and that we’re investing in this technology here.”

The Liberals will commit to funding a new fixed wing aerial patrol in Esperance, adding to the existing aerial patrols in Perth and the South-West.

“Together with the more localised SMART drumline response, this will ensure the Esperance community receives the support it deserves,” Ms Mettam said.

“Sadly, we have seen three fatal shark attacks and a number of close encounters off the coast of Esperance in the last three years and the Liberals believe the community there deserves similar measures to those in Perth and the South-West.”

A further $3 million will be spent on additional beach enclosures and research.

“A key plank of this policy is dedicating the Department of Fisheries to whale carcass removal, to intercept sharks and opportunistic tagging,” Ms Mettam said.

“This is essential given we know that the growing whale numbers off the WA coastline are a key attractant to sharks.

“As part of our research commitment, we will also examine the use of satellite tags to measure their effectiveness with regards to constant location awareness.

“These tags are used on whale sharks in other locations and do not rely on being within the vicinity of a VR4 receiver to provide an alert.

“It’s about tagging them and relocating them to remove the threat and monitor their movements so we can use the research to develop future shark mitigation measures.

“We will also be funding collaborative research with commercial fishers and researchers on shark population by-catch incidence to further inform abundance numbers.

“Swimming and surfing at our pristine beaches is part of the reason so many people love living in and visiting WA and we are committed to making sure we can make that as safe as possible.”

The Liberals plan includes:

  • $15.6 million commitment to continue support for existing Aerial Shark Patrols;
  • $24,000 to purchase eight additional temporary SMART drumlines to be deployed in case of imminent threat (two each to be based in Geraldton, Mandurah/Perth, Margaret River region and Esperance). To be deployed as necessary by existing fisheries officers in each region;
  • $450,000 for six additional VR4 receivers in 2021-22 to fill gaps in the existing network in the metropolitan and regional areas;
  • $100,000 to transition the existing tag detection system that is based in Canada to a Western Australian based system that could provide more accurate real-time updates;
  • $200,000 Integrated beach safety warning system that will collaborate inputs across Fisheries, SLSWA, LGA, Water Police and creation of a co-ordinated software and mobile app;
  • $1 million over 4 years to fund new fixed wing aerial patrols in Esperance over the summer months;
  • $400,000 for supply of drones to every Surf Life Saving Club in WA that wants it, with appropriate training and ongoing support;
  • $1.5 million over three years to continue to fund additional beach enclosures at locations in metropolitan and regional areas;
  • $1.5 million for research:
    • $500,000 for shark risk mitigation;
    • $500,000 for shark abundance research (including mapping the number of sharks); and
    • $500,000 to conduct feasibility studies into potential ocean pool locations.
  • $2 million allocated to a technology fund to enable grants to be made for emerging technology that keeps beach goers safe;
  • $2.2 million over four years ($550,000 per annum) to fund the cost of bronze medallion surf lifesaving training for volunteer surf life savers; and
  • $2 million for the Department of Fisheries assuming financial responsibility for whale carcass removal regardless of where the carcass is located.