It s my duty to protect beachgoers: Barnett
Friends of Chris Boyd paddle out in his memory in Gracetown. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

A defiant Colin Barnett has defended his Government's shark drum line policy, declaring he had no alternative but to act after a seventh fatal shark attack in WA waters in three years.

With the first baited hooks to be set off South West beaches as soon as today, the Premier told The Weekend West that after the death of surfer Chris Boyd of Gracetown on November 23, it became evident the threat was too great.

Drum lines 'keep State safe' | FULL COVERAGE

"It's very easy to criticise a policy like that, it's very easy to say the solution is in research or education . . . that doesn't deal with the situation," Mr Barnett said.

"This is the way I see it. As Premier, I have no alternative but to react to seven deaths in three years and people scared to go to the beach. And that's the reality, particularly in the South West.

"I don't get any glee or satisfaction out of seeing sharks killed at all. I'd much rather we weren't doing this. But I have a responsibility to act in (the name of) public safety - and I'm pretty well the only person in that position.

"Everyone else can have their view - 'Yeah, it's a great idea' or 'No, let's have more research'. 'Or gee, I've cleansed myself. I don't have to think about it any more'.

"I don't have that option.

"We're doing research, we're doing helicopter patrols and all the rest of it. We've put a big commitment into that. But the fatality late last year - it was just too dangerous.

"That's why I get paid the big bucks. Someone has to bear that responsibility and I think that falls to me.

"I know that's not going to make me popular at all, but that's not the reason I became Premier."

The Government hopes Department of Fisheries officers will be able to set drum lines off Perth beaches next week.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has given WA an exemption from the protected species provisions of the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act until April 30 to allow the Government to test its plan to set 72 drum lines at five metropolitan and three South West beaches.

Mr Barnett said he believed the drum lines program needed to run through the 2014-15 summer before its effectiveness could be assessed.

This would appear to put him at odds with Mr Hunt, who made clear in correspondence to the State that any extension beyond April 30 would require a full environmental assessment under the Act. The State Government has been advised this would take 18 months to two years and cost up to $1 million.

Despite this, Mr Barnett was confident yesterday he could secure the additional approval.

"We didn't really tell anyone, but the media were reporting we didn't have (Federal) approvals, well, we did - we had the Federal approval in place long ago," he said. "And I would imagine we would be able to negotiate an extension of that through next summer . . . I think beyond that is a different matter."

Though Mr Barnett rejected criticism that the policy was a "knee-jerk" response, he admitted it had been rushed.

"That's clearly the case," he said. "We've been as quick as we can but a lot of work has gone in."

He said reports the Government wanted drum lines in the water by January 10 were wrong. That was merely a date in a tender document.

The Government would "probably" readvertise for commercial fishermen to patrol metropolitan drum lines next summer.

The West Australian

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