Maurice Cole on Saving Bells Beach
Jim: Maurice, I heard there were some new challenges at Bells Beach… What’s going on?
Maurice: Our local Council has just finished building a mini-bus and coach Hub At Bells for 550 tourists, and what was once a capacity of 200 people is now 700! Our council has reduced our car parks by 30%, wants to issue commercial tour operators with licenses and has started fining surfers for where they have parked for 40 years or more, and there is more development for Bells planned with a tourist Hub planned for the Winki car park!
J: So there has been a change… was there a change in the policy status around Bells?
M: The status of Bells was changed back to a normal recreation reserve at the end of the ’70s and early ’80s, and most of the protections went with it.
The original legislation was not very strong so that in fact Bells is not a “surfing” reserve anymore. We found this out about 6 months ago and we were all quite shocked!
J: So what’s weird about that threat is that Bells is supposed to be “safe” right? It’s already a “protected reserve” so how could it be in danger? We thought of it as something like a State Park or something, kind of like the protection around places like Trestles… which we’ve also come to find out isn’t protected any more than the locals will keep it protected and natural.
M: The whole Bells reserve is amazing. Pristine beaches, incredible marine life and habitats, the flora and fauna has been re-established by our local Surfers Appreciating a Natural Environment – SANE. Truly, it’s still one of surfing’s natural wonders of the world!
J: That’s what I’ve heard. Okay, I get it. This is one of those instances when an unspoiled area is pressured by development creeping in. So, what can we do to assist?
M: We need to mobilize by way of collecting signatures on our petition and showing our politicians that surfers and their surfing culture are important and that Bells is the birth place of Australia’s contemporary surfing culture. It’s our sacred place, and will need our global surfing brothers and sisters to sign.
J: Got it, any last thoughts? I mean you were in Europe during the formation of Surfrider Europe and now you are in Australia and working with Surfrider to protect Bells. Any lessons you’ve learned over those years?
M: Tom Curren and I were driving back together from Lacanau and got to talking about how we could give something back to France. We lived in a surfing paradise in those days with perfect uncrowded French barrels but every time there was a storm, rubbish would pile up on the beaches. It was just accepted as normal…
We decided to try and educate the Spanish and French to accept the ocean was not a garbage dump…and with Planet Menakoz raising funds to start Surfrider Europe.
It was all about being part of the solution, and if you weren’t a part of the solution, then you were the problem…It’s all about giving back, and the same principles apply here at Bells as everywhere!