Beach signs find support in Capes

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times

Beach signs designed to help direct first-responders during emergencies are set to feature along the Capes coastline, with local governments signalling interest in the scheme and a roll-out to crown land on the way.

Beach Emergency Numbers, or BEN — an acronym created in memory of fatal shark attack victim Ben Gerring — is a key feature of the State Government’s shark mitigation strategy, and grants up to $50,000 to support its installation were made available to regional local governments last month.

The City of Busselton has already submitted a funding expression of interest and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River is reviewing funding guidelines with a view to applying.

Shire infrastructure services director Markus Botte said if successful, the Shire would align its current system — in place since 2013 — with the BEN system.

“Due to the lack of an overarching Statewide specification to emergency numbering, the Shire’s information was never adopted or synchronised with data used by emergency services authorities,” he said.

“The Shire therefore applauds State Government’s initiative of establishing a consistent Beach Emergency Numbering system formally registered with State Emergency Services.”

When the strategy was first unveiled, it was unclear whether the system would be rolled out to State Government-managed land, which comprises about half the beaches within City boundaries and even more within the Shire.

But a Government media release last month stated: “For State Government land in coastal areas and marine parks, planning for the installation of the signs is also progressing with the support of the relevant agencies involved.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam told the Times she supported the initiative, particularly its extension to crown land, but stressed the importance of a shark mitigation strategy protecting all ocean users.

In November, Ms Mettam called for tourniquets to be supplied at remote and regional beaches across WA — an initiative proposed by Esperance paramedic Paul Gaughan and the family of Laeticia Brouwer, who died after a fatal shark attacked off the coast of Esperance last year.

However, Ms Mettam was last week told her request had been denied.

“(This was) certainly not the response I was hoping or expecting,” she said.

“The Minister instead hand balled responsibility to individual local governments.

“As with BEN numbers, it is vital that these strategies are driven by State Government to ensure consistence throughout remote and regional beaches across WA."

Labor’s shark strategy focuses on the BEN system and personal deterrent devices.

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