POOR communications at Surfers Point, Prevelly, remains a major obstacle still to be overcome before a bid could be made to host a top level world surfing event there, despite $5.9 million in State and Federal funds for infrastructure upgrades.
Augusta- Margaret River Shire president, Ray Colyer, confirmed none of the recently-announced Royalties for Regions, SuperTowns or Regional Development Australia funds were earmarked for communications improvements.
The ability to provide reliable internet “live streaming” of surfing footage and results is considered a basic requirement, both for attracting a round of the Association of Surfing Professionals’ World Tour and for maximising the potential benefit of exposure to a massive international audience, particularly in the US, Brazil and Japan.
However, Cr Colyer said the annual Drug Aware Pro major sponsor, Telstra, through its South West office in Bunbury, was working with Surfing WA and the RDA to explore options for improving communications.
The result of that may also provide service improvements for Prevelly and Gnarabup residents as a spin-off, he said.
“Communications is a problem (at Surfers Point). We (council) have been informed Telstra is looking at the options,” Cr Colyer said. “At this stage it might involve radio with more towers, or satellite, and we are hopeful that there will also be a wider benefit to residents in the region.
“None of our funds are for it (improving communications), they are for infrastructure, water and power improvements.”
Cr Colyer said that while phone and internet were already available at Surfers Point, there was not sufficient capacity for reliable “live streaming” of the existing Prime-rated men’s and six-star rated women’s competitions during the Telstra Drug Aware Pro without risk of “breakdowns”.
“Improved volumes and faster speeds” are required before Surfing WA could think of bidding for a round of the ASP World Tour and for Surfers Point to join Queensland’s Gold Coast and Victoria’s Bells Beach as tour stops.
As well, the improved communications system needed to be robust enough to withstand “everyone logging on at once” during the final rounds, he said.
Cr Colyer said he believed the cost of installing optic fibre to improve communications would be “prohibitive”.
While not ruling it out completely, he said it was unlikely and would have to be laid along Wallcliffe Road from Margaret River township to Surfers Point.
The closest the National Broadband Network was proposed to come to Surfers Point was Cowaramup, Cr Colyer said.
“My understanding is the NBN won’t come past Cowaramup and not until a bit after 2015, and that’s not guaranteed come the next (Federal) election.”
He said that while Surfing WA had indicated improved communications was one of the “boxes to be ticked”, and that every infrastructure improvement to Surfers Point would help in the event of a bid for a World Tour event, ultimately getting one at Surfers Point was “out of our control”.
Telstra and Surfing WA were contacted for comment but had not replied in time to make this edition of the Mail.