The world's best surfers are teaming up with local, grassroots groups in Western Australia's Margaret River region to care for the coast and protect the area's beautiful beaches alongside global WSL One Ocean commercial partners SHISEIDO, YETI as well as regional partners such as Hydralyte.
Ahead of the 2023 Margaret River Pro in April, they'll be planting native species to restore the coastal dunes, laying down branches and brush to close extra pathways through the vegetation, and highlighting what it means to be an environmental steward.
It's all part of a truly collaborative effort with the World Surf League and not-for-profit Nature Conservation Margaret River Region, plus a host of other local environment-focused groups including the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association, Undalup Association, Great Southern Reef Foundation, beach clean-up group Tangaroa Blue, and the Shire of Augusta Margaret River. Each plays a vital role in safeguarding the environment of the Margaret River region and educating locals and visitors on how they can help.
The Margaret River region is in the rugged south-west corner of WA, famous for its incredible coastline, amazing surfing breaks, granite and limestone cliffs, unique wildflowers and orchids, towering forests, wineries and marine life. The long beaches, sheltered bays, good fishing and hiking, numerous surf breaks and dramatic coastal cliffs across the 120km-long Margaret River region between Cape Naturaliste in the north and Cape Leeuwin in the south provide plenty of recreational opportunities, cherished by visitors and locals alike.
Before the Margaret River Pro starts, a group of athletes from both the men's and women's tour will take part in a hands-on coastal conservation busy bee a couple of kilometres south of the Pro contest site at Margaret River Mainbreak. The world's best surfers will be joined by youngsters from the Cowaramup Bay Boardriders, who will lend a hand. They'll be planting hardy native species like "pigface", a succulent ground cover, to stabilise the dunes, improve biodiversity and give animals a home. And do some vital dune brushing, which involves laying down branches across sections of dune to close off access to sensitive areas and give vegetation a foothold. We are proud to collaborate with the Shire of Augusta Margaret River, who is helping coordinate the works, supplying the plants and delivering the brush for this project.
Nature Conservation Margaret River Region general manager Drew McKenzie says the powerful alliance of local groups all working towards the same goal means some great environmental outcomes. It includes:
- The Margaret River Coastal Residents Association, a group that meets week in, week out to tackle weeding, planting and brushing, doing a lot of the heavy lifting that keeps this stretch of coast in good condition.
- Undalup Association, which advises on coastal rehabilitation work and represents the indigenous Wadandi people who for 60,000 years have called this place home and cared for country. Undalup is vital in helping locals have a sense of place, and the six seasons of the indigenous calendar guide the timing and nature of the coastal protection work.
- Great Southern Reef Foundation, run by a team of science, media and education professionals working to promote the recognition, stewardship and health of Australia's kelp forests. These underwater forests stretch from Margaret River along the southern coastline of Australia, providing habitat for an incredible diversity of marine life, filtering and purifying ocean water, and removing vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
- Tangaroa Blue, which spearheads beach clean-up days in the region and across the rest of Australia, while also recording and adding to the country's most detailed database of ocean-born rubbish and pollutants.
- Nature Conservation Margaret River Region, the peak environmental and conservation non-for-profit group in the region, which works across a range of focus areas including the coastline, rivers and waterways, weed control, environmental education, threatened species and managing bushland for wildlife. Its vision is to protect and preserve the healthy and biodiverse natural environment on which we all depend.
- The Shire of Augusta Margaret River who is responsible for managing over six kilometres of iconic coastline in Prevelly and Gnarabup.
"Alone, we can all do a bit, but together we can really achieve so much. That's the strength of this partnership with the WSL and so many local groups working on the ground in the Margaret River region. Each one has a really important role to play, and by collaborating we're all helping each other punch above our weight and have some great outcomes for the environment," says Drew.
Genny Broadhurst from the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association says this collaboration "builds and accelerates our objective" - to increase and maintain coastal habitat for endemic fauna and flora. "It also validates our work, and expands our horizons and expectations. Through collaboration we have access to a broad range of expertise, enthusiasm and enterprise. It does all of this, while lifting the responsibility of the logistics required to grow beyond our quiet selves. We feel supported, nurtured and part of a bigger team."
Tangaroa Blue's Casey Woodward said: "Working together is absolutely vital to tackling global environmental issues like climate change, erosion control and plastics impacts on our marine environment. None of us can tackle these issues on our own - but if we work together, knowledge-share and support each other to explore new solutions, we have a fighting chance."
Kay Lehman, the Shire's Coordinator of Environment and Landcare, says the coastal zones are under ever-increasing pressure from high use and climate change, and it's great to see so much community involvement in protecting this fragile environment.
"This coastal strip contains significant cultural, social, amenity and environmental values that we all enjoy. The on-ground works complement the Shire's implementation of works identified in the Prevelly Gnarabup Foreshore Management Plan which includes the coastal areas from Rivermouth to Gas Bay," Kay says.
This year marks the second year in a row the WSL and its surfers have teamed up with Nature Conservation Margaret River Region. It follows successful environmental partnerships with community groups at WSL contest sites, including costal restoration efforts at Pipeline and Sunset in Hawaii and advancing seaforestation and citizen science in Portugal.
Mandy Edwards, who oversees Nature Conservation's Caring for Coast program, says real results are being seen up and down the Margaret River coast as many local groups work together, combined with big numbers of volunteers keen to get involved in planting, brushing and weeding busy bees.
"Every one of us really can make a difference. We're using the coastline for fun and recreation, but it's really important we become custodians and stewards for the coast too," she says. "Acting with respect and treading lightly when we're on the coast, learning more about the flora and fauna, joining your local coast care or environment group and giving back - that's the message we're really trying to spread. Wherever you are, you can do your bit."
To find out more, visit www.natureconservation.org.au or find your local conservation group in your area.
As surfers, the ocean is our playground and our stadium. Getting involved in protecting and conserving the ocean is critical for us today and for future generations. Show us what you are doing to protect the ocean by posting on social media with the hashtag #WSLOneOcean and tagging @wsl and @wsloneocean in your posts. Learn more at WSLOneOcean.org.