City of Mandurah defends shark barrier decision

City of Mandurah councillors defended the City’s position on the Falcon shark barrier proposal and lashed out at critics during the council meeting on Tuesday night.

During the meeting, councillors voted in favour of conducting a feasibility study on the proposed Falcon Bay barrier and exploring other beach sites within the City of Mandurah that may be suitable for an enclosure. 

Minister for Fisheries Dave Kelly announced a grant of $200,000 for the City of Mandurah to build the shark barrier near where local surfer Ben Gerring was killed by a shark in 2016.

But the project was put in doubt after it was revealed a barrier could cost twice that amount.

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup recently slammed the City of Mandurah for holding up the project, saying they should “just get out of the way and reflect the intent of the community”.

He also raised concerns about potential plans to change to location of the shark net. 

“Let’s not forget there’s been sharks wash up in Falcon Bay, a member of the Mandurah community was killed by shark off Falcon,” he said.

“That has happened nowhere else in Mandurah.

“Falcon is the epicentre of the community’s concerns about sharks and this is exactly the reason we responded to try to get a shark barrier installed there in the first place.”

But City of Mandurah councillors defended the City’s approach saying until a feasibility study was undertaken there would be no guarantee on how much the project was going to cost or where it was going to go.

North ward councillor Caroline Knight highlighted the need for any decisions to be evidence-based and criticised Mr Kirkup, Canning MP Andrew Hastie and federal Fisheries Minister Josh Frydenberg for transforming a tragedy into “something so political”.

Coastal ward councillor Fred Riebeling echoed Ms Knight’s comments and he said the way the situation had been handled politically was “a disgrace".

He said other locations for the barrier would serve the Mandurah community better than Falcon Bay. 

Rick Gerring, the brother of local surfer Ben, who tragically died after being mauled by a shark off Gearies Beach last year, spoke up in defence of the City of Mandurah and in criticism of the way the shark barrier had been handled in the public sphere. 

“Until a due diligence is done people are just making assumptions, which you can’t make with something so important as this,” he said.

“The background noise is taking away from the good work the City of Mandurah is doing and it has done.

“It’s so inconsiderate, it’s disgusting that people were trying to do that.

“I fully support the City of Mandurah with it and I know their best interests are in it being in Falcon Bay.”

A feasibility study on the proposed Falcon Bay barrier will be brought back to council for consideration in September. 

The study will consider the suitability of the site and associated capital and maintenance costs.