SURFERS POINT to PARTNERSHIP
THE LONGSTANDING PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE AUGUSTA/MARGARET RIVER SHIRE AND SURFING WA, PROMOTERS OF THE ICONIC DRUG AWARE MARGARET RIVER PRO, SERVES AS A SHINING EXAMPLE OF WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED WHEN A LOCAL SHIRE AND A STATE SPORTING ASSOCIATION MAKE A COMMITMENT TO WORK TOGETHER. THIS COLLABORATION IS REACHING NEW HEIGHTS AS THE TWO ENTITIES WORK TOGETHER IN THE REDEVELOPMENT OF THE SURFERS POINT SITE AT PREVELLY, WHICH HAS COINCIDED WITH THE EVENT’S ELEVATION TO FULL WCT STATUS FROM 2014. The recent WCT status granted by the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) ensures the top ranked men and women surfers in the world will be heading to Margaret River for at least the next five years. It’s an honour afforded to a select few events and serves to reinforce the bond that now exists between Surfing WA, the Pro, Prevelly and the Augusta/ Margaret River Shire. It’s all a far cry from the early days of the event, when residents complained about the ragtag bunch of scruffy surfers who would descend on their town, camping in their panel vans or out on the beach, preventing the locals from surfing ‘their’ break. Fast-forward to today and the community has embraced the Pro, which brings great financial benefits to the region and has become a source of huge local pride. In this special feature the SportXchange Project headed ‘down-south’ to talk to key personnel within the Augusta/Margaret River Shire about just what is involved in supporting an event like the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.
There’s been some ups and downs over the years but Surfing WA and the Augusta/Margaret River Shire have persevered to develop a mutually beneficial relationship over time, one that goes much deeper than a typical sports sponsorship. “It’s important to understand that our relationship isn’t just a clear-cut sponsorship – it goes way beyond that,” said Gary Evershed, CEO for the Augusta / Margaret River Shire. “The Pro is different to the vast majority of events we sponsor. It’s such a huge event for the region that it obviously requires some input from the Shire and that involves a lot of staff hours that aren’t formally recognised in the sponsorship proposal. Evershed indicated one of the dilemmas the shire faced was the delicate balancing act between promoting the event as much as possible while ensuring the cost did not become too prohibitive. “On one hand we need to manage the staffing resources that go into the event as it’s a real cost to the Shire, but on the other hand we want to support and push this event as much as we can with the resources we have because it’s just so good for the region,” he said. One example of the benefits the Margies Pro brings will soon be seen in the form of the multi-million dollar Surfers Point redevelopment. Evershed revealed Surfing WA was an important driver behind the project receiving the green light.
“Surfing WA appreciate the Shire’s input into the event and understand it can’t go off without support from us,” he said. “The relationship Mark Lane [Surfing WA CEO] has developed with the Shire was instrumental in getting the Surfers Point redevelopment off the ground.” The relationship between the Shire and the Margies Pro hasn’t always been this cosy. It took many years of hard work and compromise from both parties to reach the equanimity we see today. Shane Bacskai from the Parks and Gardens Department has been with the Shire for 20 years and has witnessed a once frosty relationship blossom into the partnership we see today. “Look, in the early days it was very much us and them. We tolerated each other under sufferance,” he said. “To be honest, in the early days I wasn’t convinced it was a good thing.” And the angst wasn’t just between the Shire and the event organisers. Bacskai revealed that for many years the Shire was the target of disgruntled locals venting their displeasure at the disruption the annual event caused. “We’ve copped a lot of flak on their behalf from the community, because if we did one thing down there we were only doing it for the comp. ‘They are nothing but bad news, they get in our way, upsetting our lifestyle’, all that sort of thing.”
Of course, these days the Pro exists in harmony with the locals and Shire alike. “Really it’s been 20 years of relationship building,” Bacskai said. “There was a realisation that neither side was going anywhere, so over time we’ve worked together to build a cohesive relationship that incorporates the town, police, hospital, tourist operators and the like.” Nowadays Bacskai finds himself one of the biggest supporters of the Pro, regularly singing its praises to new generations of Shire management who underestimate the benefits the event brings to the region. “I’m regularly going into bat for the Pro within my organisation,” he said. “Local government has a high managerial turnover, so every two to four years I’m taking my new manager down to the site and I’d have to sell the whole concept internally again to them. “The biggest concern is when staff come from a Shire that has no coastal exposure, so it means nothing to them. They don’t understand that it’s a Grand Prix, as big as it gets. They think it’s just a couple of surfies down there, who have borrowed the old man’s tent for the judging. I’m like, no it’s not, it’s huge. Until it’s happening, they just don’t realise.”
GARY EVERSHED CEO As CEO, Gary has overall responsibility for the Augusta/Margaret River shire and manages the large team assigned to the event. He is a strong supporter of the Margaret River Pro and the many benefits it brings to the region. SHANE BACSKAI Parks & Gardens Bacskai is responsible for the maintenance of the site. He also oversees the preparation of the roads and ensures the nearby ovals are properly prepared to handle the high volumes of traffic the nine-day event experiences.
“THERE WAS A REALISATION THAT NEITHER SIDE WAS GOING ANYWHERE, SO OVER TIME WE’VE WORKED TOGETHER TO BUILD A COHESIVE RELATIONSHIP”
“WE CAN’T HOLD OURSELVES UP AS THIS FANTASTIC MARGARET RIVER REGION AND THEN SAY BUGGER OFF EVERYONE, WE DON’T WANT YOU TO HAVE AN EVENT HERE.” COMMUNITY ATTITUDES
The evolution of the local community’s attitude towards the Margies Pro has reflected the growing relationship between the Shire and event organisers. What was once a contentious topic amongst townspeople is now warmly embraced as an iconic symbol of the region. “I think it sits very well within the community and certainly better than it did 10-15 years ago,” said Deputy Shire President Ian Earl. “Almost every year back then you’d get letters to the editor whinging about it. ‘I can’t go surfing’ and ‘how come they can stop us’ were the most common complaints. I’m pleased to say there isn’t any of that anymore. “Everyone is now used to the Pro coming to town, most people think that this is a fantastic event.” Local acceptance has been important for the region’s ambitions to market itself as a tourist destination and mecca of surfing and beach culture. “We can’t hold ourselves up as this fantastic Margaret River region and then say ‘bugger off everyone, we don’t want you to have an event here.’” Earl said. “We’ve got to put events on like the Pro to attract and encourage visitors to our region and we’ve got to be strong and supportive of it.” One significant driver for community acceptance has been the changing nature of the surf tour itself, with the professionalism of the modern day competitor proving more palatable to the locals than the knockabout culture of the early days. “They certainly don’t come here looking like they used to… looking scruffy, smoking drugs, all the clichés from 15-20 years ago,” Earl laughs. “Today they’re a completely different breed; they are
super fit young athletes. They’re obviously getting their own degree of media training so they’re nice to people all the time, they realise where their bread is getting buttered. “That’s not to say they weren’t nice back then, there was just a different view on the culture. They all turn up in nice cars now, not busted-up panel vans that they sleep in the back of.” The Shire has done its part, working hard to integrate the community and foster a sense of ownership over the event. Nowadays the Shire typically recognises the support from local businesses by hosting the Shire President Sundowner, where senior members of the Shire and local business representatives enjoy an afternoon of food and drink while the competitors do their thing out on the water. “It’s an opportunity for the President to invite all the Shire’s stakeholders and also acts as a bit of a thank you for local businesses who are contributing financially to the hosting of the event,” CEO Gary Evershed said. “Overall people do see the benefits to the region, as businesses just go gangbusters when the event is on because of visitation to the town. I think it’s accepted now that there are benefits for the whole region as a result of the event.” That integration continues to evolve year by year. This year the Shire developed a strategy to further community ties to the event when they involved the local Youth Advisory Council group in a video project. “We thought it would be a good idea to involve a really great group of youth in the Pro and raise awareness of the volunteer work and fundraising the council undertakes
under the management of Gene Hardy, who is the acting senior community development officer,” Amanda Russell, Marketing and Events Officer said. “I asked Gene if he had any ideas on how we could involve more youth, he said he had a surf film coming up which was the perfect fit. The plan was to get them access to surfers, film some interviews and then put it all together.” These continued initiatives have helped foster a harmonious relationship between the locals and the Pro. What was once an inconvenience to their lifestyle is now seen as a fantastic opportunity to showcase it to the world.
IAN EARL Deputy Shire President Earl’s involvement with the Pro began with his football club organising parking, nowadays he works out on the site as an electrical contractor as well as promoting the event in his role as a town councillor.
The event is developing the careers of future champions with 14 year old Jacob Wilcox gaining a wildcard entry into the 2013 Pro.
The regional community now has a genuine appreciation of the increased profile the Margies Pro brings, not just to the area’s famous surf break but to every aspect of the tourism dependant region. “The Pro attracts a huge amount of visitors who come to experience the wine, food and arts on offer,” CEO Gary Evershed said. “It creates huge economic benefit for local businesses both through direct visitation as a result of hosting the event and the exposure of the destination and the brand to an international audience through the marketing and publicity of the event.” Ian Earl agreed, saying the event was fantastic for the Shire. “We’ve got all these people that come to town; it showcases Margaret River and the region from cape to cape,” he said. “The accommodation is taken up around town, the pubs are pretty full, the restaurants do well, and people are generally looking pretty happy and content up and down the main street because there are plenty of people around.” The awareness of the region the Pro brings isn’t limited to visitors to the event either. Surfing is followed by millions of fans around the world and in today’s information age that equals a massive bonus for a little tourist town tucked away at the bottom of the southern hemisphere. “The amount of hits on the websites is enormous, there are millions of online visitors. It’s an unbelievable amount,” Earl said. The Margies Pro is a blue-chip event in a region looking to position itself as an event capital, so it
provides a valuable chance to leverage the publicity to raise the profile of their whole calendar. The Shire takes advantage of the attention the Pro brings to promote other events they stage throughout the year. “The Pro is a big event in a regional calendar of events running throughout the year, in what is a joint initiative between us and the City of Busselton,” CEO Gary Evershed said. “Obviously there’s heavy levels of visitation at this time of year to the region, so it’s about using the event to raise awareness of what else is going on.” The Margaret River region is synonymous with surfing culture and the Shire uses the iconic event to drive their marketing campaigns throughout the year. One of the sponsorship benefits they receive is a free CD of images from the event every year, which they put to good use in publications and promotions; a perfect fit for a town famous for its world renowned surfing breaks. AMANDA RUSSELL Marketing & Events Russell is responsible for allocating Shire funding to events and bringing the various stakeholders together in the lead up to the Pro. She uses the Pro to promote awareness of the other events in the Shire’s calendar.
The action-packed nine day event witnessed by the public is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Shire’s involvement. The behind the scenes logistics of hosting such a huge event are staggering, and planning and preparation begins as early as six months previously. While the spotlight shines on the likes of Kelly Slater during the event, Brad Roberts and Catherine Gardiner from the Environmental Health Department have been working feverishly behind the scenes for months. “It starts with Surfing WA sending in the relevant application forms and all the paperwork 3-6 months beforehand,” Roberts said. Meetings then begin between all the relevant departments, thrashing out the details months in advance. “We have the rangers, fire and emergency services, the environmental officer and Amanda from marketing and PR. Externally we need to consider the police, the ambulance and hospital representatives,” Roberts said. “With respect to Shire approvals events are treated in a similar way to public buildings, so there are requirements that have to be met in terms of dwelling numbers, building safety and risk management plans,” Gardiner said. Then it’s boots on the ground time for Roberts and Gardiner, heading out to the site to check everything is ticked-off so it can be approved as a public building. Their key priority is making sure the proposal meets Shire requirements to provide a safe event site for the public.
Once the planning is cleared, Surfing WA is issued with a letter of acknowledgement granting them permission to stage the event on Shire land, but Roberts revealed this permission comes with a long list of conditions. “Firstly we make sure the event organizer has adequate insurance,” he said. “As the land owners we always issue permits for anybody using the land so the planning department issues an approval. Alcohol is consumed on-site, so that involves the State government, Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor for approvals and also Shire use. “Prior to the event actually starting we go out and inspect the site and make sure everything is compliant. We then issue a public building certificate of approval, which is the final legal document that enables an organizer to legally run an event.” It’s a lot of red tape to deal with and Gardiner revealed the ever-increasing safety requirements at modern events provided a constant challenge to their quest for greater efficiency. “We’re slowly improving our processes to make it more streamlined,” she said. “The paperwork processing ran smoothly, but more risk management requirements and plans are under scrutiny now. Surfing WA had to provide more medical resources than previously, so while we’re streamlining processes there has probably been more work overall.” While Roberts and Gardiner have fine-tuned their systems, they admit next year’s event will be a whole new ball game. The redevelopment at Surfers Point will
mean a new set of planning challenges and the upgrade of the Margies Pro to an ASP World Tour Event, with all the stricter requirements that entails, will significantly change how the event is run.
BRAD ROBERTS & CATHERINE GARDINER Environmental Health Roberts and Gardiner ensure all safety requirements are met during the planning stages before issuing an approval permit to host the event on Shire land. During the event they monitor food vendors to ensure health code requirements are being maintained.
“OUR JOB IS TO TRY AND PLAN FOR ANY CONTINGENCY, LIKE THE FIRES A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO....”
The massive influx of spectators into a relatively confined area means the Shire categorizes the Margies Pro as a high risk event, so it is subject to a whole host of stringent terms and conditions before it can be given the final tick of approval. “Our job is to try and plan for any contingency, like the fires a couple of years ago,” Brad Roberts said. “It could be a shark attack or any other accident or disaster. All we can do is ensure we have as many potential situations covered as possible and have systems in place so that all the relevant people know what their role is and how to deal with it. This requires good planning and good communication between everybody. The medical risk classifications are sent to the local hospital for approval, which double checks that the level of first aid is adequate and plans ahead to ensure enough staff will be on standby for the event. The Shire’s infrastructure department, who manage the roads and traffic, will be sent a Traffic Management Plan (TMP) to ensure procedures are in place to safely deal with the expected volume of traffic. “Once we’ve liaised with everybody, we tick all the boxes to say, yes your risk management plan covers everything and your emergency services are good,” Roberts said. As always with any modern event there is a multitude of smaller details that need to be attended to. Details the general public might not notice, but which are essential for an event of this size to be staged safely. “Security needs to be considered as does a building license for the marquee, public building assessment, electricity, lighting, safe exits, seating, fire extinguishers etc,” Roberts said. “The number of toilets must match the expected
crowds. Disabled access, emergency evacuation plans, risk management plan, food that’s on site, all require approval. As does noise, emergency access and first aid. Emergency services must be notified and kept in the loop including the police, ambulance, hospital, FESA, sea search and rescue. Waste collection and removal from site and traffic management needs to be taken into account as does banners, advertising and environmental controls.” Even once the event is under way Roberts and Gardiner’s work is not done, with daily trips out to the site required to ensure food vendors are meeting all safety requirements. Doug Sims is in charge of drawing up the Traffic Management Plan, and while much of the planning revolves around dealing with a massive influx of spectator traffic, there also needs to be careful consideration given to access for emergency vehicles. “We need to consider how to manage an incident that requires emergency services vehicle access,” he said. “The TMP will need to demonstrate how, say, an ambulance can get access to the site.” Ambulances are just one aspect of the emergency services that will need to be on standby once the event gets underway. “You’ve got the hospital, the ambulances; you’ve got the police, the chief and the deputy chief bush fire control officers all coming along,” said Paul Gravett, Community Development and Safety Manager. Local police are involved right from the planning stages. “The police are their own entity, essentially part of the event management. They do their risk management matrix which goes to the health department and the hospital, who rate the matrix to determine the level of
detail needed,” Gravett said. Sims also liaises with the police while drawing up the Traffic Management Plan. “They may offer comment to what they would like to see in the TMP. Then the emergency services and hospitals are informed,” he said. DOUG SIMS Traffic Management Plan Sims is responsible for drawing up the TMP, ensuring strategies are put in place to cope with the inundation of spectator traffic and ensuring emergency vehicles can reach important areas unhindered.
PAUL GRAVETT Community Development & Safety Manager During the event Gravett manages the rangers, emergency services and community development aspect. The rangers focus on ensuring traffic flows smoothly in accordance with the TMP.
“CULTURALLY WE’RE CHANGING PEOPLE’S ATTITUDES TO THE POINT WHERE THEY KNOW THEY NEED TO HOP ON A BUS OR CAR POOL.”
One of the major headaches organisers face is the sudden influx of out-of-town spectators to an area designed for local traffic only, with neither the road conditions nor parking facilities to cope with the increased volume. “All events that generate extra traffic and/or use the road reserve as part of the event will require a Traffic Management Plan to demonstrate how both vehicle and pedestrian traffic will be safely managed and what impact the event will have on local roads,” Doug Sims said. Sims must consider how many parking bays can be made available at the nearby Riflebutts Oval, and then estimate the expected overspill into adjacent side streets. “Considerations also need to be given on how to safely manage the movement of people from the carpark to the event,” he said. “This all has to be worked out prior to the event.” Lack of available parking near the Surfers Point site is a significant issue, one which requires a multipronged approach to manage. “If we set aside Riflebutts Oval for everyone to park at, and that gets full, then we need to stop the traffic from getting down there,” Sims said.
“The next question is where are you going to divert them to? We can’t just say ‘we’re full, go home’, especially if they’ve driven down from Perth or Mandurah to watch the event. You’ve got to accommodate them. “It’s then we need to look at options further away from the coast. That’s all well and good, but how are you going to manage that? How are you going to direct traffic in and out safely? How are you going to get them safely to the event? “Buses? If so, then you need to be sure you have sufficient room for the buses to safely pull in and turn around. All that needs to be organised and approved prior to the event and will be demonstrated on the TMP.” West Australia is notorious for its car culture, but organisers are working hard to encourage a shift to public transport by laying on Park-and-Ride bus services from Margaret River. “When we get to the weekends there isn’t enough carparking out there for all of the cars so we park them back at the golf club or opposite the cemetery,” Ian Earl said. “We could probably park around 700 cars out there, and then we transport all those people in on buses, so we have buses coming in and doing a turn around, picking them up. There’s no charge for the bus service,
or the parking and people are pretty happy with that arrangement and are prepared to put up with a little inconvenience.” “We try to educate the community about parking in town and getting on a bus,” said Paul Gravett. “This year we had a new initiative to park and ride from Gnarabup Oval to encourage people from driving into Prevelly.” “We’ve become more experienced over time and culturally we’re changing people’s attitudes to the point where they know they need to hop on a bus or car pool.” Continuing to change attitudes will be an important challenge for organisers as the event continues to grow, with Gravett admitting parking facilities are already stretched to the limit. “Our aim is to act as conduit and stay ahead of the game. Where we see there’s issues or problems in the past then those lessons learned are fed back to the contest organisers,” he said. One of the important considerations of the traffic management plan is reducing disruptions to local traffic during the event. “People don’t appreciate being told they can’t drive to their local beach due to the road being closed, whatever the reason may be,” Sims said. “But portions of Surfers Point Road and Rivermouth
Road are required to be closed to the public during the event, and furthermore, the extent and time these roads are closed are subject to what’s happening at the event.” Communication is the key to keeping community angst to a minimum. “Issues can be reduced by keeping the public informed and by managing the road closure on the ground by way of an approved TMP,” Sims said. “Locals do get sent a pass so they can get to and from their homes.” Like everything to do with the Margies Pro, preparations for the traffic begin well in advance of the event rolling into town. During the preceding weeks road works are carried out in relevant areas to prepare for the increased traffic. “We have to make sure the Riflebutts track is clear, wide, graded, watered, smooth and ready for a few thousand car movements up and down,” said Shane Bacskai. He admits some frustration with the fact the construction teams often underestimate the magnitude of the event they are preparing for. “I sometimes have trouble getting them to do the job they could do. They’ll say ‘Ah that’s alright, that should hold a few Camrys’, and I’m like “No, there’s a few
thousand Camrys coming, not just 10 or 20.” “I think the key people should go down to the site when it’s in full flight. I’m talking the bloke on the grader and the construction coordinator as they don’t get involved. They really need to get a handle on the role that they play. It only sinks in where you’re there in the thick of it - not a couple of weeks prior when there’s not a car in sight.” Even converting local ovals into parking lots requires an immense amount of planning and behind the scenes work. “From 8 to 12 weeks out we start counting our mows in [before the event] and then we leave it a bit longer, so it’s like a shagpile which will take a bit more wear and tear than if it’s cut like a cricket field,” Bacskai said. “So we actually leave a bit of leaf on it and assess when and how much we fertilize. Typically we do this about two weeks before the event so the nutrients are actually in the ground. It gets parked on and run-over but the nutrients are there so within a week or two the grass is growing again. This is a technique we’ve used on a lot of sites.”
“LIKE EVERYTHING TO DO WITH SURFING WE’RE AT THE MERCY OF MOTHER NATURE AND WHO’S RUNNING HOT ON THE DAY.....”
Organisers of the Margies Pro face unique planning challenges because crowds are largely dictated by unpredictable day-to-day factors and can vary greatly depending on the weather, surf conditions, and even which competitors are surfing. Doug Sims admitted these factors made it impossible to predict crowd turnouts in advance. “If the surf’s big and the winds are good and the big names are still up there in the finals then you can expect large crowds,” he said. “But if all your big names get knocked out before the weekend and they forecast a small swell then the turnout is going to be small.” The celebrity factor is a huge driver of attendances, with crowds flocking to the beach when the big names make it through qualifying. “If Kelly Slater or someone like that gets through to
the last heat or the finals and they’re saying it’s going to be fifteen foot with light off-shore winds, people will come from miles around and it’ll just get packed out,” Sims said. “Like everything to do with surfing we’re at the mercy of mother nature and who’s running hot on the day.” Names don’t get much bigger in professional surfing than Kelly Slater, and Ian Earl recalls the chaos in previous years thanks to the drawing power of the former Baywatch star. “Kelly Slater was a big factor the previous two years and we were like deer in a headlight with that – it was amazing,” he said. “There were cars stopped all the way up to Cape Mentelle trying to get into the carpark. It was probably 2-3kms of traffic stopped on the road. It showed what can happen with the Kelly Slater effect.”
Adaptability is the name of the game for organisers. “We’ve got to be flexible,” Earl said. “So many people watch on the net and then next thing Kelly’s up in the next hour so all the people in town here just come down and it’s crazy. We’ve suddenly got to find parking for an extra 300-400 cars in a half hour.” But the ability to be flexible can’t happen without a lot of prior groundwork, and the Shire has plans written up to cover any situation. “The TMP will need to have separate contingency plans for quiet and busy days,” Sims said. “So if the surf changes or the conditions changes they can downgrade it or upgrade it as needed.”
“AS THE EVENT’S GROWN IT’S BEEN MORE DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN THE IMPACT WITHIN THE EXISTING FOOTPRINT.....”
The Margaret River area is a tourism mecca, with its famous surf beaches and wine region attracting an estimated 500,000 visitors annually. Managing the environmental impact of a huge event like the Margies Pro is an important consideration for a region whose economy relies heavily on its nature tourism. John McKinney is the Shire’s Environmental Officer, responsible for managing the foreshore all year round and minimising any potential damage the hordes of crowds could cause during the event. “The cliffs and vegetation around Surfers Point are stable enough provided there isn’t a big influx of people, so the Pro does raise some challenges,” he said. “We’ve got conditions about keeping people off the beach vegetation and fragile areas worked into the overall approval process.” A spate of recent bushfires left the delicate area more vulnerable than usual for the latest Pro. “The fires caused a massive loss of vegetation, which makes the dunes more susceptible to erosion,” McKinney said. “Straight after the fire we put a lot of effort into getting the general public to stay within tracks and carparks so we could manage that risk. We put in place a lot of temporary fencing and signage and patrolling when the comp was on, just trying to encourage people to stay off those areas.” Keeping crowds within designated areas is crucial for the health of the famous shoreline. Thousands of feet trampling the vegetation can spell disaster for the dunes.
“They’re fragile environments, you get blowouts pretty easily,” McKinney said. Blowouts are a constant danger to coastal dune landscapes around the world. When vegetation holding dunes together is lost they are left at the mercy of the winds. Sea breezes will pick up the sand and erode the dunes inland. It’s an issue the Shire remains conscious of as the Pro continues to expand in size. “As the event’s grown it’s been more difficult to maintain the impact within the existing footprint,” McKinney said. “It’s case of catching up with the construction team the week before to say ‘these are the areas we need to fence off from the public’.” But spectators haven’t been the only danger to the area in the past. Foreign television crews desperate for the perfect shot often showed scant regard for the fragile environment, and ironically enough the dunes sometimes needed protecting from the construction team themselves as they set up the barriers to preserve them. “I’d often be chasing tradies off the dunes,” Shane Bacskai said. “And there was just total abuse from the television crews, stomping all over our very fragile vegetation and creating erosion issues.” But McKinney said Pro crowds were generally very respectful of the environment. “We can get 5,000 people there on a particular day,
or 10,000 across the event, and thankfully only a small proportion jump the fence or sit in the dunes,” he said. “To be honest you’d probably get the same amount of people doing that across the year anyway. The fact the event is so compact and concentrated gives us an opportunity to manage it.” Conversely, some parts of the coastline are kept offlimits not to protect the environment from spectators, but to protect spectators from the environment. “The typical limestone overhangs are inherently unstable,” McKinney said. “Particularly with heavy rains, you get swelling which causes cracking and collapses. As part of the risk management organizers need to make sure there are no spectators near or underneath any overhangs.” JOHN MCKINNEY Environment Officer McKinney is in charge of managing the foreshore. In the lead up to the Pro he organises fencing and signage in an attempt to keep spectators off fragile areas prone to vegetation damage and erosion.
SURFING WA WERE A KEY STAKEHOLDER AND A CONTRIBUTOR IN TERMS OF MOUNTING A BUSINESS CASE AND GETTING THE FUNDING FOR THE PROJECT.....” LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Next year’s event will have a new look, with a $5.9 million redevelopment of Surfers Point and surrounding areas expected to be completed by Christmas. Project Manager Wayne Prangnell said the Margies Pro was a major driver behind the redevelopment. “Surfing WA were a key stakeholder and a contributor in terms of mounting a business case and getting the funding for the project,” he said. “Through developing the plan and design of the project we’ve kept them involved as key stakeholders having worked with them all the way. Considerations for the event were at the forefront of the developer’s minds, with Surfing WA consulted from the very start in order to accommodate key priorities for the Pro into the project. Getting electricity down to the site was paramount, which has been achieved by linking power from the chapel at the entrance to Prevelly. “The next step was the earthworks,” Prangnell states. “Surfing WA gave us a site footprint and we looked at some of the major structures for the event. The aim was to ensure these areas were as flat as possible with the peripheral structures providing as close to a level site as we can get. “One of the things we’re doing is sinking the toilet block into a dune, so it blends in with the surrounding environment better and sticks out a lot less than the current structure. Once completed the project will expand the site’s footprint from three metres wide to 18 metres, and Prangnell revealed it would make the area much more
spectator friendly. “At the moment when you set up the event site pedestrians can’t walk around it as you’ve got the competitor and corporate areas. If people want to walk to the river mouth it’s difficult at the moment, so the new plans accommodate this.” Shane Bacskai will be tasked with maintaining the new site once completed and he said the redevelopment represented a big investment in the Margies Pro from the Shire. “I think we’re definitely creating a lot more management and maintenance for the Shire, this really is a huge commitment to the event,” he said. “As an example, the majority of the lawns are basically shaped like an amphitheatre. They’re all sloping; they couldn’t have made them any more difficult for me to manage. “The incline and elevated outlook is great but it turns the slope into green solar panels, facing west. Water won’t penetrate the ground, its gets pretty damn hot and it’s a nightmare to mow on those gradients. So there’s a huge commitment to create basically a competition site.” “It’s going to require a huge commitment on the Shire’s behalf and it will come at a considerable cost.” But Prangnell said the redevelopment would also bring many benefits to the region. “There was a lot of work put into doing a business plan,” he said. “If we invest the money it will facilitate tourism, the event and all the economic growth that goes along with that.
“We’re upgrading amenities, stairs, and the boardwalk and landscaping. We’re installing playground equipment, fencing, upgrading roads, parking and undertaking site rehabilitation. “Surfers Point is the iconic location that most visitors and tourists to Margaret River want to visit, so there are a lot of elements to the re-development which are about making the site work better the 355 days a year when the event’s not on.”
WAYNE PRANGNELL Surfers Point Project Manager Prangnell is the project manager for the Surfers Point redevelopment. He has been liaising with Surfing WA since the planning stages to ensure the project meets the requirements of the Pro heading into the future.
www.sportxchange.com.au www.imagexchange.com.au Surfers Point to Partnership is published by the SportXchange Project in partnership with Surfing WA, promoters of the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Written by Luke Everitt, Jordan Slight and Stu Williams. All images by ImageXchange and Relentless Sports. (August 2013)