The City of Albany will make a third federal funding offer to realize a long-term vision for an artificial surf reef off Middleton Beach following an outpouring of community support.
About 40 people gathered in Albany city council chambers on Tuesday to support the reef which is expected to generate surfable waves for 41% of the year off Middleton Beach.
Councilors supported an officer’s recommendation to apply for funding under the sixth round of the federal government’s Fund to Build Better Regions and to commit a confidential sum of money to the project to get it through the line.
If BBRF’s request is successful, the city will advocate for additional funding “to minimize the city’s direct financial commitment to the project,” according to the officer’s recommendation.
The project, dubbed the Southern Ocean Surf Reef, missed out on its $5 million funding bid in last year’s BBRF round, which was needed to bolster the $5 million already secured from the WA government, which is not s not extend beyond 2023-2024.
During Public Question Time, former Albany Board Riders President Peter Bolt called on the board to support the project for its health, economic and tourism benefits to the city.
“In Albany, budding young surfers are either confined to the overturning, poorly formed waves off Middleton Beach or depend on their parents to ferry them to Torbay or Nanarup,” he said.
“These limitations mean that many young people in Albany cannot participate in what has the potential to be a lifelong pursuit with meaningful contributions to physical and mental well-being.
“The idea and desire for a surf reef at Middleton Beach is now in the community and has been actively campaigned and supported for over 20 years – it’s time.
“This is a project that, once constructed, will provide continued social, health, economic and environmental benefits for more than 50 years and with minimal ongoing resource input.”
Australian surfing pioneer Jodie Cooper sent a message of support for the project, and Albany Surf Life Saving Club and Albany MLA Rebecca Stephens called on the board to vote in favor of the funding request.
“When you look around our city, you can see when all levels of government contribute and work together – our community benefits,” Ms Stephens said.
“The Southern Ocean Surf Reef is very important to our economy, our community and our young people.
“Without your financial support, the local government tonight, the future of this project is uncertain.”
Cr Greg Stocks implored his fellow advisers to “be brave enough to undertake a transformational project” for Albany.
“If we don’t do our best. . . so we’re disregarding 30 years of community work, we’re imploring people to get involved and I don’t want to be part of a board that’s coming to the end where we have to have a bit of courage and then back down,” he said.
Cr John Shanhun spoke against the recommendation that the $11 million be spent on another major project that could provide year-round benefits.
Cr Shanhun and Cr Alison Goode voted against the recommendation. Cr Chris Thomson did not vote due to an impartiality interest.