Surfing Reserve Status A Step Closer
The Gold Coast’s iconic and world-class beach break of South Stradbroke Island, along with its little sister surf breaks at The Spit, have been added to the list of the Gold Coast’s best surf breaks to be included in an application for recognition as a World Surfing Reserve (WSR) which will be assessed later this year. The WSR has the backing of the state government and thein-principle support of the local council, which once cemented, will see the application meet the requirements and be submitted to the governing body.
A looming threat to the iconic surf break by way of a proposed shipping port and adjacent private development on public lands had, until now, prevented the area from being considered however the results of the recent state election have delivered certainty to the area with the incoming government winning the election with a clear and strong platform of no cruise ship terminal, no asset sales and no private or commercial development in the area.
The areas in question are currently public waterways and park lands that are crown public spaces under state administration, and have been for over a century. In their current form these spaces boast a vastly diverse and irreplaceable marine park with over 470 species, critical migratory and local bird roosts, marine breeding habitat, sensitive sea grass beds, multiple world-class surfing precincts, one of the world’s best inshore city dive sites and hundreds of hectares of unique and vital open public space.
The battle to preserve and enhance the area has gone on for decades, with multiple developers and politicians over the years all making attempts at the land and waterways to facilitate private and commercial activies and developments, but all have failed against at-time-severe community backlash, technical limitations and strong environmental concerns. This now includes the latest and perhaps most audacious attempt by the city’s own elected mayor and former LNP government to offload the area to the ASF China Consortium – a group of contentious mega-developers and casino moguls based in Asia.
The campaign to see the Gold Coast’s surf breaks achieve this status and be recognised has been a long-time pursuit of Gold Coast surfing luminaries such as Andrew McKinnon, who heads up the city’s Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve Inc organisation. Andrew has been working closely with the wider coastal community including local boardrider clubs, the Save Our Southern Beaches group, Save Our Spit Alliance, Kirra Point Inc and many others to see this through into fruition.
“There was no quarantee that abnormal dredging of the Southport Seaway to allow for Cruise Ships would not adversely impact on the surf breaks TOS on the Northside and the Southport Spit on the Southside of the Seaway outlet,” said Chairman of Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve Andrew McKinnon
Mr McKinnon explained how South Straddie was always within the listed sites of a Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve but it wouldn’t have passed approval by the World Governing Authority on World Surfing Reserves because of the imposing threat.
“That threat to one of the World’s best beach breaks has now been lifted by the new Premier of Qld State Government Annastacia Palaszczuk who campaigned heavily on supporting the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve (GCWSR) and opposing the Wave Break Island development,” said McKinnon.
This time last year at the Quiksilver Pro, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the then Leader of the Qld State Opposition, boldly offered unequivocal support for the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve. And now 12 months later the GCWSR plan for Burleigh Heads to Snapper Rocks, which McKinnon says was always intended to include South Stradbroke and The Spit, has gained momentum and is on track.
The CEO of Gold Coast City Council Dale Dickson has offered a pathway for Council to consider the GCWSR application. Dickson who is chairman of the newly formed Surf Management Plan Advisory Committee has recommended that the committee look at the possibility of such a World Reserve pending a number of questions regarding Council’s responsibility, liability, management, costs etc.
“We don’t want to be protesting every 10 to 15 years!” – Joel Parkinson in support of the WSR bid
In the past, the surfing community has been at loggerheads with local mayor Tom Tate over many surfing issues, not the least the cruise terminal proposal and the subsequent perpetual dredging which would have seen the outer sand banks, shoals and channels of the Southport Seaway gutted and perpetually dredged to accommodate cruise ships – a process that would have certainly seen the end of the perfect A-frame set up on the other side and the destruction of one of Australia’s best beach breaks.
Surfers from far and near have continually slammed the mayor and the concept, including condemnation from 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and local surfing legend Mick Fanning, whose public opposition to the plans brought out arguably the real Tom Tate from behind the plastic-smile facade of his public persona. Tate fired back at the time telling the community that surfers don’t matter and he will be listening to the interests of Cruise Company CEOs.
“You can be the best surfer, diver, artist, I’m happy for you, but I will be listening to the people that matter … It’s more of an issue for high-profile people like the CEO of a cruise ship company … they’re the high-profile people I’m worried about … (for) every Mick Fanning that comes out, I can find a high-profile surfer to say it’s a fantastic idea” – Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate
Mr Tate has yet to find a single surfer of any stature or notability to even remotely support his stance on the area. Early on in the campaign he admitted the liklihood of the surf break being destroyed, but affirmed that he wanted to drive past the development one day and tell himself, ‘I did that’.
“The surfing community aren’t happy about the cruise ship terminal because it will lose them some of the surf break,” – Tom Tate
Fast forward to today and the GCWSR chairman Andrew McKinnon along with Save Our Spit’s Vice President Luke Sorensen stood united at The Spit this morning, talking to the media about the incoming government and how that has positively affected some changes to what has up until now been a volatile and divisive landscape in regards to the social, political and future scope of the area. There seems to be little doubt amongst the campaigners that the new Labor government will naturally honour their clear election promises and move soon to end the former government’s integrated resort process with the ASF China Consortium – effectively lifting the immediate threat to the area.
“TOS is one of the world’s best beach breaks … The world governing body would not be able to endorse this while that threat was hanging over us but now we believe that threat has been lifted by the (new) Queensland State Government, who are opposed to that development, and who support the World Surfing Reserve.” Mr McKinnon told reporters.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk pledged support (for a WSR) this time last year – she hasn’t changed her position on that, we believe the cabinet ministers are going to come down to the Quiksilver Pro and make a huge statement in March, next month.” – Gold Coast WSR Chairman Andrew McKinnon
“Now we’re chasing Gold Coast City Council support and we’re in the Surf Management Plan Advisory Committee meeting – that’s the process that CEO Dale Dickson has given us, subject to a list of questions that we will give him all the answers. I’m confident we’ll get Gold Coast City Council support along with the State Government support, and that will be enough to get us over the line.” said Andrew.
Some confusion over area remains
Reporters pressed the two representatives over the continuing push by the ASF Consortium and Tom Tate to lobby the new government to not honour it’s election commitment but continue the process in favour of the foreign developers. ASF local project manager Tim Poole has been playing down the election results to investors and the community, threatening the Labor government with mentions of lost job opportunities and lost investment as well as delivering pleas for continuing support of their plans.
ASF are pressing on, but with speed bumps and road blocks at every turn it is becoming farcical to some. Ironically, the consortium’s planned ‘Local Supplier Information Session’ to be held tomorrow has just been cancelled and postponed until March 5th because of the approaching tropical low and the ensuing wild weather it will bring to the city over the coming days. These are the very same weather patterns that many have argued for decades make the concept of a terminal in the broadwater totally invalid to begin with.
“The recent State election has created additional focus for our Project team, however ASF Consortium continues its ongoing commitment to delivering the Gold Coast Integrated Resort and Cruise Ship Terminal.” Mr Poole said in a project press release.
“We see this as an opportunity to deliver a sustainable, transformational investment and employment Project for the Gold Coast and we hope that the proposal evaluation continues on its merits to ensure the reputation of Queensland as a good place to do business is maintained.
“In Australia, we simply don’t have the local investment money available to build tourism infrastructure of this scale like cruise ship terminals and integrated resorts, so foreign investment is critical to any large-scale project being viable,” he said.
LiQUiFY can reveal that the ASF Consortium is currently undertaking another flash Newspoll telephone survey on the Gold Coast, which is bombing unwitting respondents with a series of probing political ideology and voting activity questions long before even mentioning anything about the development. The survey has been already discounted as a desparate attempt to undermine Queensland democracy from within, and lobby the government to abandon its election pledge to Queenslanders over supporting foriegn corporations and developers private business interests.
Save Our Spit Vice President Luke Sorensen has lashed out at ASF, accusing them of perverse conduct and activities against the people of Queensland.
Mr Sorensen told reporters this morning, “Just this week past Annastacia has told all of her ministers to uphold all of the election promises (made by Labor) and we believe, of course, that the asset sales including Wavebreak Island are definitely part of that. I don’t see any reason why the incoming government could ever drop this promise, and I think ASF are absolutely chasing their tails if they think they are going to march up the hill and change the outcome of the election.”
Luke went on to add a fiery assesment of the current actions of the ASF China Consortium and defend his organisation’s stance on the area and the election results.
“We’ve got a poll (state election) of millions of Queenslanders, and it’s been put fair and clear to those people, and they’ve said no, so I don’t see why ASF should even be here, they should go home, and this should be the end of it.
“We think they are going to attempt to pervert the democracy of Queensland – they’re going to attempt to go to the current government and tell that government to turn over the democratic result of the election to support them.” – Save Our Spit Vice President Luke Sorensen
“Absolutely ASF is wasting their time. They’ve got a Newspoll running at the moment, and instead of asking people about pokie machines or loss of land, they’re asking people about their political persuasions. We think they are going to attempt to pervert the democracy of Queensland – they’re going to attempt to go to the current government and tell that government to turn over the democratic result of the election to support them.”
Luke continued his scathing review of the consortium and their apparent methodology in saying, “The last time I checked, the people of Queensland create the policy through their government in this state. Corporations should not come in and determine policy behind the scenes after an election has clearly been won in favour of a platform and an agenda to end this development.”
World Surfing Reserve Is In Sight
Regardless of the last-ditch attempts being made by ASF to revive their fading development cash-cow, every minute with a new Labor government is a minute closer to World Surfing Reserve status for the areas mentioned, and another nail in the Tom Tate cruise terminal plan. Labor has indeed committed to this and the protection of the broadwater, and it is unlikely they will break their promises or consider wavering given that the promises are deeply rooted in their main election platform of no asset sales.
“We have listened to the people … there is to be no development, pure and simple.” – Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Further discussions and deliberations with the city council will continue, and with no terminal threat to impede, progress should be made towards securing the council support on top of the state government support – putting the bid for status in the prime position for when later this year, the governing body assesses the application alongside two other WSR applications. The body only grants one protective WSR title out per year.
In the meantime, the approaching storm swell is beginning to scour away at our beaches and dunes, waves pound out shorline and the cycle of the Gold Coast surfing life continues on without missing a beat. Time will be the best measure here, and the outcomes that come will be something that future generations will no doubt talk about in years to come – hopefully whilst still getting shacked off their nuts on The Other Side or enjoying a steamy freight-train Kirra keg in clean, blue and public waters.