Gold Coasters have been dealt a combo of low blows over the proposed oceanside cruise terminal pre-election promise from Mayor Tom Tate with LiQUiFY able to reveal multiple issues which defy belief – namely that the actual cost for the ‘modest $70 million terminal’ floated by the mayor will now be almost half a billion dollars – that’s right, $500 million!
EXCLUSIVE by Jake Dunn
‘PORT OF CALL’ PROMISE NOT ECONOMICALLY POSSIBLE – NOW IT’S A FULL SCALE HOME PORT OR NOTHING
A source close to the proposed project has revealed exclusively to LiQUiFY that a looming Gold Coast City Council meeting by the Economic and Major Projects committee, scheduled for Thursday this week (May 25), is going into closed session because hundreds of pages of reports containing the findings of recent engineering and feasibility studies have explicitly shut down any option of a port-of-call or transit port on its failed business case.
The reports also suggest that a large scale and expensive industrial home port is the only remotely conceivable option.
A home port would have to include a full range of services with everything from large-scale refuelling and sewerage facilities, dedicated customs and passport control, food and water supply as well as other potential infrastructure components like shore-to-ship power – things that the mayor vocally shouted down often when campaigning on his proposal.
LiQUiFY can also exclusively reveal that the secret reports estimate the cost of this new ‘home port’ to be in the vicinity of the half-billion-dollar mark, an inconceivable leap up from the election promises of Mayor Tate who told voters his proposal would cost a “modest $70 million” to build and get up and running.
This price tag would make the Gold Coast oceanside cruise terminal the single most expensive stand alone cruise terminal on the entire planet, and one of the least equipped home ports in the world, having no direct or nearby access to heavy rail or airport infrastructure, severe traffic restrictions and almost no land available for the vast network of storage, supply, sewerage and other standard home port infrastructure.
“They can’t do the port of call so they are opting for the home port and even with the minimal option to take only one ship docking at a time, they’re estimating it’ll cost about half a billion to build … it’s pure madness, but they somehow still think it’s a viable thing – that it’s somehow a good thing,” said the council source to LiQUiFY.
At a press conference last Monday, Mayor Tate labelled the home port option that his council applied to the Federal Government for approval as, “the worst case scenario.”
“They are also trying to tell councillors that they’ll be getting over 200 ships a year from the moment it opens, but that just flies in the face of everything we know about the industry and the local conditions here, they’d be extremely lucky to get a quarter of that – surely the councillors can’t be that stupid?” added the source.
Mayor Tom Tate has long sold the city on the very glamorous and enticing idea of a port of call, a simple place where ships turn up, passengers get off and spend up in the city, and if you believe the mayor, it appears the voters believed him at every step, swallowing the the modest and less-intrusive port-of-call option promised by the mayor, hook, line and sinker.
Tate’s terminal, in a very rudimentary sense. The crude computer graphics fail to show any associated development, infrastructure or other key and significant components of a $500 million home port
“This will be a port of call only, so that means no refuelling, and it’s mainly for people to get on and off,” said Mayor Tate on Channel 7 news, ahead of the last election.
As recent as March 23rd this year, Mr Tate reaffirmed his commitment to the Gold Coast terminal only ever being a ‘port of call’ and not requiring all of the invasive components that a full home turnaround port would deliver.
“My position hasn’t changed — a ‘port of call’ is what I want and if it doesn’t tick all the environmental boxes, I’ll be the first one to vote it down,” Tate told the Gold Coast Bulletin in a conversation lambasting Mick Fanning, who had made his views public in opposing the proposal.
UNDER THREAT! This epic surf break is in the exact place the mayor wants to place an 850m long swell-blocking rock wall and double-berth international shipping port. Mayor Tate has continued to tell the city that the terminal project would not impact the surf breaks nearby, which is absurd as it sounds considering its entire design’s purpose is to literally block swell from hitting nearly 1km of our beaches, including the Philip Park beach breaks
Mayor Tate is backing the two-ship berthing option and continued boasting about the double berth capacity on his Facebook Page yesterday, without acknowledging to rate payers the true cost of his choice.
The two-berth option is understood to cost even more than the approximate half billion already estimated for a single berth terminal.
It is understood that the likelihood of a private investor taking the project on would be next to nil, and that the only option left may be for tax and rate payers to stump up their hard-earned cash for Tate’s pet project dream.
Other options suggested to LiQUiFY about funding the half billion dollar bill have included:
- Get rate payers to pay for it (they won’t mind paying, they love paying)
- Hold a massive ‘fire sale’ on city parks and public assets (people don’t need open space, they want concrete)
- Beg the state government to pay for it even though sources have told LiQUiFY they are very much not interested
- Ask ASF and their Chinese-Government-owned developers to fund it, but naturally offer them a huge plot of free public parkland on The Spit in return
- Find anything public-owned and not nailed down and sell it without the consent of the people – as in the case of the approximately 16,000 square metres of public land known as Bruce Bishop car park and Neal Shannon Park, approved to be sold by council last week to fund Tate’s pet projects
Mayor Tate stumbled through questions at a press conference held last week on the subject. When asked about how it will be funded, he couldn’t elaborate on any type of funding source.
When asked if the initial cruise terminal would be a home port or not, the mayor responded with an unintelligible babbling of disjointed responses that could not be interpreted by any of our staff.
With the cost blow-out and the only proposal left on the table being for a half-billion-dollar and full-blown home port with associated infrastructure, it would appear that the rate payers and voters of the Gold Coast have well and truly been fed half the story at twice the price yet again.
SUSPICION MOUNTS AFTER EPBC APPROVAL FAILS TO STACK UP
In another blow to the credibility of the mayor and the growing examples of his promises and pledges falling short, a controversial decision from the Federal Government’s Environment Department last week to rule the proposal as not a ‘controlled action’ did in fact leave a few environmental boxes unticked – at least for now.
LiQUiFY can also exclusively reveal that a major step in the EPBC process has potentially been skipped, and reasons as to how this may have occurred have left opponents of the proposal dumbfounded.
Speaking today to a spokesperson from the Save Our Spit group, we have learned that a crucial component of the process which would have allowed the resubmitted application to be opened to a second round of public submissions may have mysteriously vanished.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before and it’s got a lot of people talking,” said the spokesperson.
Save Our Spit added that they had been in contact with an EPBC applications expert to learn more, telling LiQUiFY, “It’s clear that this proposal fell into the ‘Not Controlled Action – Particular Manner’ bracket according to the Government. It is standard then for the Government to call on the proponent (council) for more information, and they did, but they must also then publish the updated conditions and specific controls – the ‘particular manner’ in which the approval is granted – so that the public is granted another ten-day period to make submissions to be considered by the minister. There’s been nothing published, they just skipped ahead and said, ‘here Tom, here’s what you wanted’ – the due process was completely abandoned by the Federal Environment Minister and his department. Our guy who had been doing these applications for years says he’s never seen anything like it and is quite shocked.”
The Save Our Spit spokesperson was adamant that the EPBC process had been totally abandoned by the Federal Government and that the proper handling of the application appeared to have been modified to benefit the proponent.
“We’ve crunched all of the possible reasons the Feds would just skip such a crucial and fundamentally necessary part of the legislated process – we’re left with only one thing and that’s political interference,” they told LiQUiFY.
Further to the mayor’s repeated claims that if the proposal didn’t “tick all the environmental boxes” he would be the first to scrap it, it appears the conditions imposed by the Federal Government have highlighted environmental concerns for marine wildlife in the area, acknowledging that both the construction and operation of the terminal could impact protected species.
The Government’s own EPBC flow chart (displayed here) calls for a ten-working-day period where the public can make submissions regarding any controls or conditions they have imposed on an application.
In a statement from the Federal Government’s Environment Department, it was admitted that the project would be, “subject to certain requirements to protect nationally significant listed species.”
The Federal Government has recommended spotters be stationed on the structure to alert workers to any approaching marine life, and enact a mandatory 30-minute stop work period.
Save Our Spit says that the measures are laughable and will do very little to protect marine life.
“They’re not going to be able to see turtles or grey nurse sharks that may be at the Scottish Prince, or whales and dolphins from that structure, and are they going to stop work? We doubt it,” said the Save Our Spit spokesperson.
STRONG TERMINAL LINKS TO ASF CASINO PROJECT EXPOSED
It has also been revealed that the new oceanside terminal feasibility reports commissioned by the council, and paid for by rate payers, have been undertaken by the same three firms that are listed as major partners in the ASF China Consortium which is proposing 5 highrises and a casino development directly across the road from Tate’s terminal site.
Aecom, MacroPlan Dimasi and Price Waterhouse Cooper, who have completed and supplied the latest reports into the feasibility of the cruise terminal idea, are also listed as partners to the ASF Consortium and were involved when the original studies into the earlier plan was investigated for a multi-billion dollar private city to be built inside the Broadwater at Wavebreak Island.
The clear relationship the three firms have to both development proposals calls into question claims by the mayor that the ASF Casino Resort and Cruise Ship Terminal are not at all linked.
Both proposals will require the state government to give the proponents large sections of Crown public land on The Spit, something that the Labor Government campaigned strongly against and vowed never to do.
The proposed terminal site (left) is actually well trafficked public parkland, dedicated to the Prince Philip of England and part of the southern component of the Federation Walk Reserve. Right is the proposed ASF highrise casino project site. Both proposals are on Crown public land and have caused significant controversy and division amongst Gold Coast resident. A recent Reachtel poll of Gold Coasters found that over 70% of residents did not want the ASF development on The Spit but the state government is refusing to end it, pushing ahead with the process regardless. The mayor continues to deny the two proposed projects are in any way linked
Original terms set down by the previous LNP state government explicitly stated that ASF would not be granted a casino license until they produced a functional and successfully operating cruise terminal.
Then Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Jeff Seeney, was explicit that the government terms would be to only grant favourable development options to ASF after the “prior establishment and ongoing operation of a successful cruise ship terminal” by the foreign developer.
It is understood that these conditions reflected the fact that ASF were only ever invited to develop on The Spit or in the Broadwater so that the city may get a cruise terminal at no-cost-to-ratepayers.
Under the new Labor government, the Wavebreak Island project has been abandoned however ASF have still been invited to submit a proposal for a small highrise city on The Spit, apply for a casino license, but strangely not provide any support for the construction a cruise ship terminal.
Mayor Tate has repeatedly denied that the proposed ASF casino development and his own oceanside terminal project are in any way linked, despite being across the road from each other and featuring the exact same companies undertaking feasibility studies for both projects.
Last Monday Mayor Tate told media, “And be clear, this cruise ship terminal project is seperate, and it’s a project of its own, nothing to do with any other project nearby.”
The angle of view that ASF doesn’t want the public to see, showing their obtrusive development plan and how it, and an international cruise ship home port, could scar the mostly-undeveloped Spit area permanently // Artist impression supplied via Save Our Spit
ASF’s main construction arm and likely financier, should it get approval for any of its development projects, would be the China State Construction and Engineering Corp. According to a report in The Australian, “the World Bank refused to grant a $232 million loan to another member of the ASF Consortium, China State Construction Engineering, over concerns it had engaged in corrupt practices on a different road project in The Philippines. The World Bank investigators suspect the company had also attempted to rig bids and had worked in a cartel with firms on other contracts.”
Separately, another ASF Consortium member perviously listed is CCCC Guangzhou Dredging, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company.
In 2011 the World Bank also announced it had debarred CCCC “and all of its subsidiaries” from participating in World Bank projects over bid rigging and other corrupt practices of an entity it acquired in 2006. The 5-year ban and debarment was lifted early in 2017.
Both companies – the CCCC and CSCEC – are state-owned (government) Chinese companies who stand to secure a prime parcel of public Crown public waterfront land on The Spit if the state government proceeds with and grants them land and approval for their casino plan.
The outcome of Thursday’s meeting may not be known for some time, and the reports into the feasibility of the oceanside terminal are being withheld from the public for the time being. We can however think of 500 million reasons why the mayor may be a little secretive and reserved in letting the rate-paying public in on the biting realities of his grand terminal dream.