No cash for replacement shark barrier

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
The Middleton Beach swimming enclosure net is in need of repair.
Camera IconThe Middleton Beach swimming enclosure net is in need of repair. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Middleton Beach could be without a shark barrier in 12 months unless the City of Albany can find money for a replacement.

Conceding the current barrier was struggling to withstand ocean conditions, City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said money would need to be found for a replacement by mid-2020.

However, he said State Government money — which funded much of the existing barrier — had not been forthcoming.

“We’ve been told there is no more State funding to replace it at this point in time, but we’ll continue those discussions,” he said.

“After the current repairs are complete we hope we can get another 12 months use.”

The existing barrier cost $340,000 in 2016, of which the State Government provided $200,000.

However, it is understood a new model replacement could cost up to $800,000.

This month an inspection found holes had worn through the net and sand build-up was holding the net below the water’s surface.

The Middleton Beach swimming enclosure net is in need of repair.
Camera IconThe Middleton Beach swimming enclosure net is in need of repair. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Mr Wellington said the City would try to keep the barrier in working order for another year “while we look at options for the future”.

“The ocean is fairly unforgiving and . . . we’re now noticing more wear and tear to the ropes and struts from being in a marine environment,” he said.

The barrier was installed in 2016 in a three-year trial, eight years after schoolteacher Jason Cull was mauled by a 4m white pointer in Ellen Cove.

Joanne Lucas, who pulled Mr Cull from the water that day, said last year the barrier had returned a sense of safety to the beach.

“Since the shark net (was installed), people have come back in droves,” she said.

Albany MP Peter Watson said he would push for the State to help fund the replacement.

“I would like to think that both the City of Albany and the State Government could make a contribution to a replacement barrier,” he said.

“The shark barrier has proved to be popular with locals and tourists, so it has been a worthwhile investment for beach users.”

In late 2018, two sharks were found inside the swimming enclosure.

In response, a spokesperson for Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the State Government was exploring future options for the beach.

“The City of Albany has advised the State Government that it is expected that the beach enclosure will need to be replaced in 2020,” they said.

“The Minister has arranged for the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to work with the City of Albany to assess future options for the beach enclosure at Ellen Cove.

“This includes options for leasing a new enclosure, extending the life of the existing enclosure, a seasonal deployment, alternatives adopted by other local governments and other shark hazard mitigation strategies.

“Officers from the Department’s shark hazard response unit met with senior officers from the City of Albany in April and the Department continues to provide support to council.”

They said no formal proposal had been submitted to the State for funding consideration for a new shark barrier.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails