Community show support for Middleton Beach artificial surf reef as funding wait continues

Headshot of Sarah Makse
Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
Albany Board Riders' Peter Bolt, Aido Shepherd, current president Dave Beeck and Darren Oostdam.
Camera IconAlbany Board Riders' Peter Bolt, Aido Shepherd, current president Dave Beeck and Darren Oostdam. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

Albany surfers made an impassioned plea for progress on the $9.5 million Middleton Beach artificial surf reef on Tuesday after 100 people showed their support at a community workshop earlier this month.

The Albany Boardriders held a community workshop on June 10 to rally support for the project, which still needs $5 million to become a reality.

The proposed 165m submerged rock reef off Middleton Beach is expected to provide consistent surf breaks of up to 100m for about 41 per cent of the year.

The State Government has pledged $5 million, of which $500,000 was used for a detailed design and business case.

The wait continues for a decision on the City of Albany’s $5m Commonwealth funding application through the Building Better Regions Fund, which is expected to be announced later this year.

Surfers were supported by a full public gallery during public question time at Tuesday’s City council meeting, including three grommets wielding hand-painted signs calling to “bring on the reef” and “do it for the generations to come”.

Former Albany Boardriders president Peter Bolt tabled 42 benefits of the reef drafted by the community.

These included that it would offer physical and mental health benefits for kids, grow tourism, require minimal maintenance, attract tourists, provide a safe surf spot with mobile coverage and access to emergency services, and help protect Middleton Beach from coastal erosion.

Mr Bolt urged the council to put funds towards the reef in its upcoming budget to strengthen its bid for Federal backing. “It is an investment for 50-100 years, for multiple generations,” he said.

Earlier this month, Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said the City would await the result of the Building Better Regions grant application before committing funding to the project.

Albany Surfing Mums’ Kylie Outhwaite spoke on behalf of its 18 members, who have surfed in the region since 2012.

The mums, who have about 30 kids between them, hit the waves at Nanarup and Muttonbird once a week, but have to use four-wheel drives to reach the surf.

Ms Outhwaite urged the council to think of those who didn’t have the means to reach the water.

“While we love the adventure of getting out to our beaches and being able to have a surf, a lot of people don’t have that access,” she said.

Surfer Darryl Byatt said a reef would keep young people in Albany active and bring tourists to the region.

“There are so many untapped wonders around our stunning south-coast city,” he said. “Build it and they will come.

“They will not only come, they will tell others about it.”

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