Controversial Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has continued his apparent anti-surfing tenure this week, affirming that surfing congestion on the coast was not on his list of primary concerns when telling the Gold Coast Bulletin that new surfing breaks were not in his sights.
Responding to a Griffith University report that detailed up to $8 million a year was already being lost due to surfers heading elsewhere to surf less crowded breaks, or choosing to not surf here at all, Mr Tate told the newspaper he was ‘not concerned’ by the prospect.
The creation of new surf breaks is now at the forefront of the debate, specifically artificial reefs to ease the crowd pressures and improve the city’s surfing amenity. Other suggestions have included proper construction of quality inland wave pools as well. Whilst artificial reefs present many challenges and some surfers also believe they could be detrimental to our current environment and surfing amenity, the majority consensus is by far that this is something that has to be well-planned and properly implemented as soon as possible, if our surfing culture is to survive.
This week the Gold Coast Surf Advisory Committee – a city-council-chaired panel of highly respected surfing stakeholders including the Association of Surfing Professionals, Surfing Queensland, Gold Coast Surf Council and Surfrider Foundation – voted unanimously in support of a plan to create no less than five new artificial surf breaks on the Gold Coast, as the city’s best surf breaks have now well exceeded practical and safe capacity.
Mayor Tom Tate sees it quite differently though, dismissively reminding the surfing community that the interests of surfers are largely superfluous to his own views. The mayor shocked many earlier this week when he said, “It’s not about creating more surf, that’s not my priority.
“My priority is to protect property and lives at the time of severe weather incidents and the design (of any new reef) will be based on that,” said Tate.
Erosion and coastal protection are no doubt issues that the surfing community holds high as well, however Mr Tate’s remarks came yet again as divisive, distractive and counter productive. For a man who often claims it’s all about compromise and win/win situations, it appears he is making sure that surfing isn’t the winner when he is pressed on critical surf amenity issues.
In the meantime, our surf breaks, particularly along the Southern end of the coast, but also places like Burleigh and South Stradbroke, continue to be smothered by thousands of new surfers entering the pecking order each year. Surfing injuries and violent encounters also continue to grow as tensions extend beyond that of simple frustration.
Nowhere has this taken a heavier toll than for long-time local surfers who have steadily watched their childhood surf-break homes – significant locations that are the keepers of their best memories and lifetimes of surfing joy – decimated whilst successive councils toy with themselves on the issues of surfing amenity and surf break management. There is, however, no easy solution – and never has there been one. But the concept of new surf breaks is now gaining solid momentum as the most plausible and attainable long-term solution.
Gold Coast Surf Advisory Committee spokesperson, Gold Coast & Tweed Surfrider Foundation’s Chris Butler today told the Gold Coast Bulletin, “It is obvious that the mayor is clearly out of his depth with his comments as being ‘not concerned with creating surf reefs’ but rather protecting the beach … The crowding problem is bad now and we know it’s going to get worse so it’s going to be a bloody disaster unless something is done.”
This brings us to our Tom Tate top ten list of ignorant or dismissive anti-surfing comments that he has thrown out during his controversial term as mayor of one of the world’s biggest and most involved surfing cities … yes Tom actually said these things, and cutting it down to just ten was more difficult that you can imagine.
TATE’S TOP TEN SURF QUOTES
10 – On surf culture
“A lot of people came here for the beaches. Whether they surf or not is not relevant.”
9 – On surfers’ needs
“Now for the surfers, in mind that ah, they want the perfect waves or whatever it is, um yeah, we’ll do that.”
8 – On the surf taxi to TOS and surfers versus cruise ships
“We’ll make sure that ah, invest in um accessibility for the surfer for South Stradbroke, as I said before about better water taxi, and we’ll investigate that, and ah I wanna make sure it’s safe. I don’t wanna see a huge cruise ship coming in and collecting a surfer, I mean, that would be a promotional nightmare, and (I’m) intending not to have that. But ya know, when you look at it, I’m out on the water quite a bit … why wait for an incident to happen? Let’s look at it now, and make sure it doesn’t happen … that’s why the taxi service is very crucial and how to fix that is to upgrade the taxi service, make it more frequent, make it bigger.”
7 – On paddling the Southport Seaway
“I think it’s dangerous now, paddling across there. When I’m out in the water there, I wouldn’t wanna paddle across there, look down, there’s all sorts of sthings (sic) under the water.”
6 – In response to learning of professor Neil Lazarrow’s 2008 definitive study and report that determined the South Stradbroke Island surf break alone delivers between $18 million and $33 million per year into the Gold Coast’s core local economy
“I haven’t seen the $20 million claim that that’s what the break bring in. I thought surfing in that section was free?”
5 – When asked for advice he’d give surfers who might need to find an alternative if South Stradbroke was destroyed
“Couran Cove, around that area is not bad either, so there’s plenty there. I mean, you can go and surf outside Main Beach, Narrowneck there’s pretty good,”
4 – Pre-election on repairing Kirra
“And if Kerry Slater (sic) came here and said that this is the best place to surf, well who can argue with that? Ladies and gentlemen, I will find further savings out of the wasteful expenditure that the current council is doing and we’ll get the right solution, the total solution, for Kirra Groyne.”
3 – Post-election on repairing Kirra
“We don’t have a budget for that, it’s a state government budget, it’s a state government project … Mick (Fanning) is a standout spokesman. Let’s see if he can get that project up, let him lobby. I will leave it to Mick. He’s putting up his hand, saying things, he can get the groyne going for surfers. I’m bowing down to Mick’s expertise. I’m leaving it to Mick to do.”
(Note: the Kirra Groyne is, and always has been, 100% a city council governed piece of infrastructure)
2 – About prominent surfers voicing valid concern and opposition over his cruise ship dredging plans for the Southport Seaway
“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.”
1 – On ABC Stateline – Tate’s message to the surfing community when conceding that they would likely lose the world-class South Stradbroke surf break after dredging for his cruise ship terminal development dream
“I just want to point out to the surfers there, um, there’s 65 kilometers of beaches here on the Gold Coast, and ah, take a pick!”
In actual fact, there’s less than 30km of accessible surf beach on the Gold Coast, and only a few kms of this hosts world class waves.
In a city where the voting populous is significantly bound and dominated by surfers, surfing community participants and surfing minded people, the mayor has certainly dug himself into a very large hole ahead of his run for a second term in office. Just how he hopes to turn this abomination of public relations around is a complete mystery. As history well and truly suggests, we can expect more anti-surfing remarks from the mouth of Tom before his time is up in March next year. One thing is for sure though, the surf will continue to break and the crowds will continue to grow. To use Tom’s own words when describing the need for a solution and more surf breaks … “Why wait for an incident to happen? Let’s look at it now, and make sure it doesn’t happen.”