Millions of dollars could be lost in the Margaret River region if the World Surfing League decide to move the Margaret River Pro to Kalbarri.
Organisers of the Margaret River Pro confirmed to Fairfax Media they had met with Kalbarri boardriders club and the chief executive of the Shire of Northhampton to discuss the possibility of an event there.
Surfing WA chief executive officer Tim Thirsk said no decisions had been made and they were only exploring options at the request of the WSL after this year's event was cancelled due to two separate shark attacks.
The Margaret River Pro began in 1985 and is considered a huge tourism magnet for the South West.
Last year, Tourism WA secured a deal with the WSL to keep the pro on the world championship tour for another two years.
Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association joint chief executive officer Sharna Kearney said moving the iconic event to Kalbarri would certainly have a direct impact on the region's tourism economy.
“Both in terms of visitor numbers during the event and from the loss of valuable exposure the destination receives surrounding the event,” she said.
“Independent research by Tourism WA showed that in 2017, the Margaret River Pro attracted more than 6,000 visitors to the region, and generated a $5.4 million economic boost for the region – it has generated over $20 million since the event was granted top tier status in 2013.” Vasse MLA and shadow minister for tourism Libby Mettam said losing the pro would be another blow to WA tourism and in particular to the Margaret River region.
“More should have been done at the time to ensure the Margaret River Pro continued this year and into the future,” she said.
"It was a couple of Brazilian surfers that had raised that concern but other competitors were quite comfortable for the event to continue."
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said he had done everything he could to try and save the Margaret River Pro.
”Im absolutely determined, and the state government and Tourism WA is determined, to retain a world surfing event,” he said.
I would like it to be the Margaret River Pro personally. In the event of the options being Margaret River or no world surfing event, I would like to retain the world surfing event.
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia
“I would like it to be the Margaret River Pro personally. In the event of the options being Margaret River or no world surfing event, I would like to retain the world surfing event.”
Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said during the previous government Royalties for Regions helped fund the upgrades to Surfers Point which enhanced the locations appeal for a world surfing event.
“All this investment will be wasted if the McGowan Government does not implement strategies to minimise the risk of shark attacks in the South West,” he said.
Mr Papalia hit back at claims the government wasnt doing enough and said it was the Liberal Party that was intent on losing the Margaret River Pro.
“They have actively campaigned against the event and played into the hands of some people who dont like surfing in Margaret River,” he said. However, Mr Redman called on the government to show the world that Margaret River was a safe place to swim for “the sake of our tourism industry.”
“This is the time for them to stand up, show leadership and restore peoples confidence in accessing our magnificent south west coastline.”
Shire of Augusta Margaret River acting chief executive officer Annie Riordan said it had been in discussion with Surfing WA and would continue to support the event.
“Its a world class event that results in considerable economic and community benefit,” she said.
“Our purpose-built venue provides a superior event viewing platform and the satellite locations provide for a variation in competition waves.
“WSL and Surfing WA have a strong focus on delivering an environmentally sustainable event that both respects the local areas and serve to promote a positive behaviour messaging on a global platform. There is routinely positive feedback from visiting surfers and tourists who are able to enjoy the region and all of its offerings.”