The state government has stated the South West’s SMART drumline trial is ‘on track’, despite news the Gracetown trial will not commence until it has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fisheries minister Dave Kelly announced the 15-month trial back in August, however, the submission to the EPA was only made on December 21.
South West Safe Shark Group committee member Keith Halnan expressed his frustration and said he questioned the state government’s integrity in regards to the trial’s implementation.
“This has gone through delay after delay after delay. They’ve said ‘oh we’ve got to do this and we’ve got to do that’. The public need to see this for what it really is,” he said.
“The whole thing was Dave Kelly bowing to public pressure to implement this program and all he has done since is weaken and delay it.”
Acting minister for fisheries Roger Cook said the government was working with the EPA to ensure the program was moving forward in an appropriate fashion.
“We always said the SMART drumline trial would be active in early 2019, that is on track at the moment and we're looking forward to that being put in place,” he said.
“We're allowing the EPA to assess it because we want to make sure there is proper planning and proper approvals for the SMART drumline pilot, that process has now been undertaken and we're looking forward to moving forward now with the actual proposed trial program in the near future.
“We want to make sure we do this properly and the processes are being adhered to.”
Vasse MLA and shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam said the trial should have been up and running by now, especially given it was the tourist season.
“Minister Kelly has had more than four months to go through this process. The government has seriously dragged its heels on this,” she said.
“As more details about the guidelines surrounding the WA trial emerge, I am become increasingly concerned the government is not undertaking the trial in line with established best practise and in the best interest of ocean users.”
The Nationals WA spokesperson for Fisheries Colin de Grussa said the state government was putting community safety in jeopardy by allowing ongoing delays.
Mr de Grussa said the delays were a complete contradiction to Minister Kelly’s promise to start the trial “as soon as possible”.
“The Minister was dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing to a trial, and he now appears to be doing everything he can to delay it,” he said.
“We’re talking about people’s lives, and the reputation of our coastal communities.
“The Minister seems more focused on bowing to the environmentalist agenda, instead of protecting our ocean users and fixing the perception that it’s not safe to swim at WA’s beaches.”
Mr Cook assured the public, the government was eager to see the SMART drumline program implemented.
“I'm eager, I'm sure all the surfers, divers and swimmers across WA are keen to see this program rolled out but we want to make sure the science is right, we want to make sure the planning and processes are adhered to, not simply having politicians parading in a ridiculous manner,” he said.
“We're looking forward to the SMART drumline pilot being implemented as soon as possible and as soon as we can get those lines into the water, we will do that.”