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New Threat: Tate’s Terminal To Cast Swell Shadow On South Stradbroke Surf Break

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has resurfaced for another term, wasting no time coming forward with wild plans for development and a cruise terminal on The Spit – this time right on the northern tip, at the opposite end of where he proposed ahead of the recent election.

In what appears to be yet another confusing and distracting attempt, in the hopes of gaining access to public lands in the area, the Mayor is calling for an array of bridge, tunnel, oceanside terminal, development and sewage infrastructure to be built just off the Seaway and on the northern tip of The Spit.

Revealed in the Gold Coast Bulletin over the weekend, Tom Tate’s shock plans to develop the northern Spit and ocean space off the Seaway into an international shipping port – far removed from his advertised oceanside terminal proposal he campaigned with ahead of the election a few weeks earlier

The loose proposal, which at this stage seems to have little detail of explanation to accompany it, would see a plethora of new threats to the existing amenity of the area, including the potential loss of the South Stradbroke surf break by way of constant significant alteration and dredging to outer shoals and channels as well as the potential for swell disruption and swell shadow resultant from an artificial rockwall island needed to protect the ships from prevailing swells and seas.

A bridge to Labrador, tunnel from Wavebreak to The Spit, a massive pier and new rock-wall island off the Seaway, just part of what Tom Tate is proposing could be built on The Spit and surrounding waterways.

As has been seen for decades on many occasions, this new proposal calls for cross-subsidising between the private commercial sector and public government to facilitate outcomes – more specifically, hinting that private developers will fund some of the infrastructure requirements in return for receiving access to build megadevelopments and commercial ventures on prime public Crown-land parklands.

Mayor Tom Tate suggested that – according to the Gold Coast Bulletin – “developers along The Spit could help pay for a traffic solution.”

Aside from the array of potential negative impacts such as the privatisation and commercialisation of public spaces, overuse and overcrowding, and many potential environmental issues, the likelihood for negative impacts on the South Stradbroke surf break have been compounded and increased under this new proposal.

Tate’s ‘Oceanside’ terminal, as depicted on his website and as he campaigned with ahead of the last election. True to form, shortly after being re-elected, his proposal mysteriously shifted and changed, away from the previous location towards the southern end of The Spit back to the northern end and back where it could really impact the surf and dive amenity. Duplicity, it seems, knows no bounds when it comes to terminal proposals on the Gold Coast.

Primarily, it is understood that the structure would consist of a lengthened pylon pier (from the existing location) to extend eastward, arriving at a long rockwall island built specifically to stop swell and create a sheltered harbour effect. The rockwall island would have to be significant in size, around half a kilometer in length with additional angled sides before it could even possibly provide the required shelter for large modern cruise ships, most of which are now over 300m in length overall. Some liners such as RMS Queen Mary 2 are up to 345m in length.


A significant list of other problems exists that may arise from this location, some being the probability of swell reflection from such a structure (which could impact arriving and departing ships) the significant current generated by the tidal flow in and out of the seaway and around the structure, the exposure to various wind patterns given there is no protection from such winds out on the open sea, and of course the exposure to significant swells throughout the summer cruise season, namely powerful cyclone and low-pressure system swells. All of this would make regular scheduling of large ships a potential nightmare, dissuading cruise companies to commit.

A large swing-basin, continuous dredging and sand pumping would be required to ensure that the areas used by the ships do not infill due to factors such as storm surge and impacts, the litterol sand movements and the longshore drift in the highly volatile sedimentary environment we have on the Gold Coast.

It’s a freak combination of natural and man-made elements that has produced one of the best beach breaks in the world. Despite its consistency, it also carries with it a certain sense of fragility given that a change in any one of the many factors that make this place great could spell the end for the incredible waves there // Photo Luke Sorensen

For surfers, the impacts could be catastrophic for The Spit and particularly for the South Stradbroke surf break which is heavily reliant on a particular set of parameters that allows the location to produce those juicy and perfect A-frame peaks, often drawing in more swell than the surrounding beaches.

The propensity for such a structure to create a notable swell shadow behind it would be high and depending on the swell direction and swell period, it could eliminate much of any South Easterly swells, preventing the wave energy from properly arriving on the beaches at the surf break. An example of the ‘Swell Shadow’ effect and how it may impact the surf break at South Stradbroke in the animated video below.

Swell arriving from the East through to the South-South East make up the primary swell direction that makes the place work, and it is often noted that on a solid South swell, much of the northern Gold Coast can be breaking at 2 feet whilst The Other Side can be producing 3 to 5 foot barrels at the same time.

Swell Shadow from structures and islands is famed for impacting many surf breaks around the world, particularly on the west coast of the United States where offshore islands can often block significant groundswell emanating from storm systems, making one surf break be double over head and the next break a few miles down the coast be barley chest high. Such places include Santa Barbara, which is often impacted by South Swells hitting the Channel Islands just offshore and failing to eventuate on the mainland.


Huntington Beach is another break that can be broken down into two primary swell windows, with a significant portion of their ocean-facing vectors blocked by offshore islands which shield the coast there from most swell arriving from those directions.

Offshore islands create varying swell windows and swell shadows that have a notable impact on the wave energy and surf that arrives at the famous Huntington Beach surf breaks in California

Despite the proposed structure from Tom Tate being smaller in scale and closer to shore than the large islands off the Californian coastline, the physics and effects apply the same on this proposal for a rockwall island harbour, particularly when the wave period is increased and the swell travels from from farther away – meaning a deep groundswell that could potentially deliver the day of the year, might instead be turned away or blocked by the terminal structure.


This manifestation of the mayor’s personal pet-project ambitions comes as the latest in a string of super-sized development plans initiated by the man who once told surfers and divers that their opinions do not “matter”. From elite and exclusive Polo tournaments on Doug Jennings Park to XCat powerboat racing right through well-known humpback whale, turtle and dugong habitat, the mayor has long demonstrated his ambitious idea of what the city’s waterways, foreshores and oceanfront mean to him, causing him to clash often with everyone from community associations, environment groups, the entire surfing community, local business owners, the dive community, boaties, fishermen, artists and a vast proportion of long-term locals.

Each time similar dubious proposals have been put forward the community has exploded with enormous opposition and rallies of thousands of people. In 2014 over 2500 people turned out at the Broadwater Parklands on a rainy Sunday morning to voice their opposition to Tate’s terminal plans, something rarely seen within the apathetic confines of the city. Sadly, it appears the community may have to get the posters and signs out again and demonstrate exactly how much they value their surf breaks, public spaces and waterways.

Not to be dissuaded or deferred from the issues at hand, there are some serious questions to be asked about the apparent lunacy of such a proposal this time around. Both the major cruise companies have been sheepish and reluctant to commit to a Gold Coast terminal, adopting a wait-and-see-approach, which should be of major concern to every Gold Coaster. One CEO from the Royal Caribbean cruise company stated without any ambiguity that their interest primarily lies with the new Brisbane terminal for the Brisbane Rivermouth and they can not support a Gold Coast port of call. Both companies are as-of-now in the final stages of talks that will secure their private investment in the new Brisbane terminal to the tune of around $100 million, meaning there will be almost zero cost to tax payers. The new home port will accommodate the biggest ships easily and more importantly, it will deliver on their business modeling due to its accessibility in almost all weather, proximity to the airport and rail lines, proximity to supply lines, fuel, the M1 highway and the efficiency by which they can facilitate both port-of-call needs and home-port needs for their passengers. None of these efficiencies or objectives are achievable by any potential Gold Coast terminal currently proposed.

The cruise industry has been largely non-supportive of the concept of a Gold Coast port of call, or ‘way port’, and as cited in this letter, indicating no support specifically for an oceanside or offshore terminal. An oceanside terminal may be something to consider decades from now for the Gold Coast, however in its current crayon-drawing thought-bubble form, coming from the side of the mayor’s head, it appears to have no genuine place at the present time

The lack of interest, the likelihood of enormous port fees, lack of reliability, safety issues and lack of supporting infrastructure is as revealing as it is alarming, given the common thread on this topic having always reverted back to attempts to gain development access to Crown parklands.

In fact, it appears that for each version of this idea, it has been that the worse off the concept they can propose economically, the more prime public land appears to be needed to be offered to private developers in exchange for them subsidising the economic failure the terminal would likely become.

A previous proposal under Mayor Tate morphed from a simple $30 million floating dock into a $7 billion development on over 100 hectares of irreplaceable public waterways and parklands – essentially gifting Wavebreak Island, parts of The Spit and resumed waterways to a Chinese consortium (with the primary construction company being Chinese-government-owned and debarred from the World Bank for fraud and collusion practices) in return for an unsuitable and predestined-to-be-obsolete cruise ship terminal.

That proposal would have seen the Seaway dredged into oblivion and the outer banks and channels that make TOS fire gutted and replaced with a permanent and ongoing sand-mitigation regime of an unimaginable scale. The incoming Labor government recently had the sense to call a spade a spade and end that atrocious and glaringly obvious land grab.

The word around town is ‘here we go again’ as not just surfers and bodyboarders, but swarms of beach lovers and coastal communities, water users, ocean goers and park lovers prepare to rally again and fight what breaks down to be little more than a sly land-grab attempt by way of deception and division. Countless surveys and reports have often shown the issue of a terminal to be a divisive one, however the issue of keeping The Spit undeveloped, free, open and public has always returned a massive majority consensus that it must be preserved for the people and not handed to developers – not carved up with infrastructure or private developments.

Another point to consider is the modern-day heist that happens when governments use infrastructure projects as a dangling carrot of sorts to secretly push for and propagate development agendas. One such example is right here on the Gold Coast and may eventually come into play on The Spit.

The Gold Coast light rail system was a multi-billion dollar project that left our city in gridlock for some time, it allowed for the gentrification of parts of Southport by displacing existing businesses with a drawn-out construction phase that many could not afford or survive. The rail was met with a mixed response by demographers, businesses and locals who all shared views both denouncing it and supporting it. Tom Tate referred to it as a “lemon” on many occasions before later embracing after he became mayor.

What most people did not know (and many still are unaware of) is that wherever they laid that track, within 800 metres of it would become zoned as unlimited height development. Right now there is a strong indication that if this Spit terminal proposal was indeed built, then a spur line of the light rail would be planned to go past Seaworld through to the terminal, using the phony terminal as the excuse. The added infrastructure of terminal, tunnel and light rail would be used as the unstoppable excuse for The Spit to then be developed privately. What is essentially the last remaining undeveloped coastal space on the entire Gold Coast could be lost forever to private development.

The same applies for the proposed Stage 2 or 3 routes north and south of the current track, which would potentially deliver a continuous 1600m wide unlimited-height zone from one end of the coast possibly all the way to Coolangatta. We can hear the property developers and real estate speculators rubbing their hands in anticipation whilst the community is left out in the dark and out of the loop.

Bridges, tunnels, terminals, tracks, bus corrals, car parks, buildings, offices, kiosks, parking meters, dredging, walls, towers, resorts, casinos, fines, fees, fences and farcical ambitions are just some of the threats to the environment, amenity and true unwritten value of the spaces in question, and sadly it is up to the community to yet again stand up and fight for what is already theirs – fight for the waves and beaches and parks and waterways that are the beating heart of this water city. In the meantime, get your wallets out because it looks like mayor Tate will be pouring more public money yet again at investigations, studies and PR spin to push this ahead – not bad from the bloke who constantly told the public it would not cost them anything //

North end legend Damien Healy hooking in to the golden hour on the other side of the river last winter // Photo Luke Sorensen

World Surfing Reserve Unveiling Reveals Hard Road To Recognition

world-surf-reserve-gc-006Kirra Point in all her splendid glory – worth protecting // Photo Luke Sorensen


The Gold Coast’s recent nomination and successful achievement to become the 8th-ever World Surfing Reserve had its unveiling recently, and despite the politicians lining up to be seen at this history-making occasion, some of them were clearly fighting against the surfing community all along as LiQUiFY reveals.

Photos // Luke Sorensen
Words // Trent Stapleton

It was meant to be an easy call, a no-brainer and something that our famous surf city could embrace as a whole, but the push to see our world-class surf breaks recognised and honoured with the status of a World Surfing Reserve (WSR) would become a political nightmare doused in personal views and political fear-mongering, culminating in bizarre attempts to derail what should have, for all intents and purposes, been nothing but one logical celebration and feather in our cap.

The nomination campaign was spearheaded by an impassioned Andrew McKinnon, himself flanked by an enormous groundswell of public support, local surfing luminaries and some of the most iconic Gold Coast personalities. It was a simple and straight forward deal – meet the criteria, promote the nomination and get the local and state government to give it endorsement … but as it had proven time and time again, the last part would crash into a few solid speedbumps along the way, speedbumps who would be trying their absolute best to be an immovable thorn in the arse towards the bid and prevent the WSR from coming into fruition.

world-surf-reserve-gc-005Gold Coast WSR Chairman and surfing luminary Andrew McKinnon


Despite some at-times-hysterical criticism and opposition, the overwhelming public consensus and community support steam-rolled any negativity to eventually secure the vital local council endorsement required to be eligible for the title.

Prior to being elected to government, the Labor Party of Queensland, under now Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, had long been supporting the push as well as the broader Gold Coast surfing community. This commitment would only strengthen upon taking government – their support was consistent and unwavering.

One of those initially opposing the WSR push was the city’s own mayor, Tom Tate. His historically-documented disdain towards the surfing community failed to stray from expectation and from the onset of the conversation he emerged as one of the WSR’s biggest critics. Tate questioned everything from the legitimacy of the organsiation to the fanciful idea that the title of a WSR would lock up the beaches away from everyone but the surfers – this was despite there being absolutely no supportive evidence to suggest such hysteria had any validity.

Tate went so far as to produce a crude and entirely irrelevant Google Maps image of a post office building in Davenport California, home to the WSR governing body’s PO Box, in what could only be described as a bizarre attempt to discredit the Save The Waves organisation and the WSR bid – it had little effect.

mayor_tom_tate_kirra_cruise_ship_terminalGold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has long demonstrated a certain level of duplicity on major issues, often saying one thing one week and then ‘rejecting’ his own comments the next. It was reported that Tate supported a cruise terminal and hotel development on the beaches of North Kirra, provided it did not detract from his own cruise terminal proposal for the northern end. His comment that he “did not want to force a cruise terminal down ratepayers throats” is as farcical today as ever as he tries yet again to turn a Gold Coast beach into an international shipping dock and terminal, this time on The Spit, on top of the last remaining undeveloped coastal reserve we have left on the Gold Coast.


In the end our council had no more options to defer with all councillors voting yes to endorse the bid, the exception being the ‘against’ of Division 3 councillor Cameron Caldwell – the rest, as they say, is history.

Andy McKinnon and his huge team of community volunteers had the nomination in hand and upon lodgement it was understood that the Gold Coast was the early front-runner for WSR recognition, with only one surf destination around the world receiving the prestigious title per year.

A nervous wait ensued but in the end the Gold Coast was crowned as the 8th-ever World Surfing Reserve, a symbolic title that, whilst not rooted in any legislation, provides a significant anecdotal and symbolic protective sheath for the surf breaks included, giving the Gold Coast community as well as our visiting surfing friends a real sense of ownership, conservation status and recognition for our incredible world-class surfing assets.

The dedication took place atop the Queensland side of the Point Danger lookout on March 8th this year in front of the public gallery as well as multiple delegations from state and local governments, the WSR governing body Save The Waves, the Peruvian WSR delegates, surfing identities and media.

world-surf-reserve-gc-003Indigenous welcome to country, performed ahead of the dedication ceremony, atop the Point Danger headland


It was a monumental occasion for all with none other than our own Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholemew presiding, and the Premier Of Queensland, Hon Annastacia Palaszczuk delivering a heart-warming speech of recognition and support towards the Gold Coast’s vast surfing identity and community, our history and our future.

The Premier took the stage to rousing applause, her popularity amongst the surfing community was evident. Palaszczuk wasted no time in aknowledging the hard work behind the nomination and WSR title as well as her government’s commitment to ensuring that surfing industry and community are well looked after on the Gold Coast under her leadership.

“I really do want to pay tribute to Andrew, and to Rabbit,” she told the packed assembly. “You came to me in opposition, we talked about it, I loved the idea. We were on board from day one and this is a real credit to you and your committee,” she said. The Premier called on the crowd to give thanks adding, “Without your drive and enthusiasm, none of us would be here today, so can we give them a big round of applause.”

Save The Waves and World Surfing Reserve delegate, California’s Nik Strong-Cvetich

The awaiting dignitaries and media were treated to a traditional indigenous dance display and a series of special guests from around the world and close to home. World Surf Reserve representative, Save The Waves’ Nik Strong-Cvetich, was proud of the Gold Coast’s commitment to securing the title.

He opened by saying, “It is truly an honour to be here with you guys today at the world’s newest World Surfing Reserve.” Perhaps the most subtle yet revealing joy seen throughout the ceremony was in the child-like grin and cheeky inner-grommet radiance gleaming out of 1978 world champion Wayne Bartholomew. Here was Wayne, hosting the event that would deliver the ultimate title to his childhood surf breaks – the world-wide recognition for his backyard and the place which holds his fondest memories. He was unable to hide his absolute elation.

1978 world surfing champion Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew like a kid in a 1970s Kirra barrel all over again

Celebration and accomplishment were themes for the day despite the dreary weather and the ceremony wrapped up with the Peruvian delegation, led by 1965 ISA Big Wave World Surfing Champion Felipe Pomar, bestowing traditional miniature reed surfboards to the Premier and Mayor to honour the surf reserve dedication ceremony. The ancient reed surf craft arebelieved by many to be the oldest form of surfing in the history of mankind, with the local Huanchaco people in Peru believed to have been surfing through shorebreaks as early as 5,000 years ago. Huanchaco in Peru is also on the list of World Surfing Reserves.

The WSR title has come amid a sea of conflicting views, wedge politics and posturing from a select few. Perhaps the strongest opposition for once didn’t come from city hall but rather from the state member for Burleigh, Michal Hart.

Mr Hart embarked on a campaign of his own, warning that the WSR was only going to lock up the beaches and deliver exclusion rather than inclusion. His strong views came on the back of the support he had earlier tendered for the proposed megadevelopment and cruise terminal for the beaches of Northern Kirra.

Hart has arguably been a constant threat to the values of the general surfing community, demonstrating strong support for multiple cruise terminal proposals and developments that would potentially threaten surf breaks such as Kirra and South Stradbroke Island.

At the time of Bob Ell’s highly contentious proposal for an international shipping port and hotel development on the Bilinga and North Kirra foreshore, Michael Hart endorsed the idea telling News Limited, “This is the only serious plan I have seen; it has a business case … The cruise ship terminal fits in well at the southern end of the Gold Coast; (because it) has been ignored, any major piece of infrastructure at the southern end of the Gold Coast would be advantageous to the residents and business.”

The proposal was shouted down ealry in 2014 with a significant public rally of nearly 3500 people, organised by the Save Our Southern Beaches Alliance and the Save Kirra community. Subsequently, both the state LNP government of the day and the Labor party ruled out the concept – something, it could be argued, they could have been more vocal about before the mass community anger and uproar. It goes without saying, Gold Coasters are well-known to love their surf breaks and love their beaches undeveloped and unobstructed as they are, and are happy to let the politicians know this from time to time.

world-surf-reserve-gc-008 It wasn’t just a handshake between two people, it was a rare bridge between surfers and their government, and it symbolised the deal struck to recognise and protect our world-class surfing lifestyle from future threats. It’s also a timeless image that documents what a passionate community working together with their own elected representatives can achieve // Photo Luke Sorensen


Michael Hart’s apparent ire and disdain for Andy McKinnon’s World Surfing Resereve push came to a head one morning on public radio when the two clashed over the nomination. A fired up McKinnon took Hart to task on his remarks and the exchange exposed both men’s steadfast passion for their individual views. If anything, from a surfer’s perspective, it exposed the LNP state member’s propensity for favouring a long-term view of development before surf breaks.

Asked by Gold FM’s Richard Fowler if he was sold on the World Surfing Reserve initiative by McKinnon, Hart responded almost instantaneously with, “No, I‘m not.”

Hart added, “My point of view is, this will be an excuse for a lot of people to say ‘look, you can’t do that because this is a World Surf Reserve’ and it won’t matter what it is that is attempted to be done, this is another level of bureaucracy that will stop progress.”

McKinnon was quick to hold the Member for Burleigh to account, delivering a stinging retort.

“Well that’s just absolute rubbish, because unfortunately the member for Burleigh, Michael Hart, has not done his homework. He’s not read the list of conditions that were approved by the City Of Gold Coast (and) the councillors, what it’s all about.

“It won’t exclude anyone, it won’t be another layer of bureaucracy, so all that stuff that you keep going on about Michael, you’re out of date mate, you’re really behind the times.

“You actually bucketed me and sent letters out to everyone, rubbishing the hell out of this campaign so you’ve managed to engineer a negative campaign from the word go on this, so I’m not letting you off the hook on this Michael. Everyone is entitled to say what they believe in, but what you are saying is so inaccurate, it’s so false, it’s (the WSR) not going to exclude anyone, it’s not going to be another layer of bureaucracy, it’s recognition of what we’ve got here – the world’s best point breaks from Burleigh through to Snapper – why would you deny us on that?”

world-surf-reserve-gc-007 The Queensland Premier’s call for acknowledgement and thanks to those behind the WSR nomination campaign, particularly Andrew McKinnon, drew unanimous loud cheering and applause from the entire gathering, with the exception of the member for Burleigh, Michael Hart, who despite being a front-row VIP, appeared to defiantly cross his hands // Photo Luke Sorensen


Michael’s campaign to criticise the WSR campaign did, however, fall on deaf ears it seems. In the end the community backed it, the vast majority of councillors backed it and most importantly, the Labor government and relevent ministers had backed it and supported it from the beginning to end citing the critical importance of surf culture, surf lifestyle and surf industry to not only the Gold Coast, but to the whole of Queensland as well.

A 2013 Gold Coast Bulletin article highlighting the ongoing threats to the famous South Stradbroke surf break after relentless cruise terminal and massive private commercial development proposals initiated and pushed by the mayor of the Gold Coast, Tom Tate. So much is the ongoing threat to surf amenity in the area, that the Surfrider Foundation rates it as one of Australia’s most endangered waves.

The historic day marked the end of one journey and perhaps the beginning of another, as the ceremony was also not without a certain sense of emptiness given the glaring absence of South Stradbroke from the WSR inclusions. In a nutshell, the mayor and select councillors were reportedly ready to oppose the bid vigourously if the famous beach break and surrounding areas were not removed from the nomination.

It is widely known that the Gold Coast mayor, Tom Tate, has demonstrated a significant amount of disdain publicly towards the Gold Coast surfing community and has been aggressively eying off a series of private commercial development proposals on Crown public land in the area of the Gold Coast Seaway and The Spit for some time. Including these surf breaks in the WSR title could have perceivably strengthened some of the protections in that area, at least in the realm of public opinion, if it went ahead. The threat of losing council endorsement (required for a successful WSR bid) was too much to risk against the opportunity for the remaining surf breaks from Burleigh south to be declared, so the north was reluctantly dropped from the bid – although McKinnon has always maintained that it was always meant to be included.

From Narrowneck north to The Other Side hosts a series of world-class beachbreaks that are a vital component of the Gold Coast surf amenity as a whole. TOS is regarded as one of the best beach breaks in the entire world and has been, until recently, under a long-term cloud of serious threat from consecutive cruise ship and mega-resort development proposals initiated by the mayor. Thankfully, at each turn, the community – led by the Save Our Spit and Save Our Broadwater research and community groups – has fought back the tenacious development and greed fuelled pushes.

For now though, the city is basking in the warm glow that is World Surfing Reserve status and the prestigious, albeit symbolic, protection and unity that it delivers. This incredible achievement is thanks largely to our city’s great surfing icon Andrew McKinnon and a massive team of incredible surf community champions and passionate volunteers //

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