hile the local media headlines are filled with the debate about the benefits and pitfalls of a cruise terminal and investment in marine infrastructure on the Gold Coast, the city’s new Mayor, Tom Tate is standing by his commitment to build a $30 million cruise ship terminal at The Spit by 2014 – despite Premier Campbell Newman saying the state coffers are empty for such a project.
Under Tate’s financial model, the Queensland Government was to have contributed $15 million with the council adding $10 million. An additional $5 million had been set aside for contingency costs.
While the local marine industry supports sustainable development of the region’s major asset – its waterways – the prevailing attitude is one of taking a long-term approach based on a thoroughly mapped out development plan.
Rob Mundle, Commodore of Southport Yacht Club and Convenor of the Broadwater Sustainability Working Group, says the concept would fit in with the long-term development of the Broadwater and beyond, but just building a Cruise Ship Terminal with no thought for a bigger picture makes no sense.
'It certainly could be part of what might happen, but our focus needs to be on formulating a plan that addresses every conceivable option – jobs, raising the profile of the Gold Coast through events, opportunities, regattas, fisherman’s markets, hotels, islands and boating havens, as well as the environmental aspects like seagrass revegetation, mangrove walks, eco-tourism and even an underwater observatory on Wavebreak Island.'
The plan he refers to is the Broadwater Masterplan, supported by a $2.3m study which came out in 2002 funded by Council and the then Labor state government.
'We are using that as the guideline,' says Mundle, adding that Council can’t afford to rush in to a ship terminal.
'There could certainly be a place for a cruise facility, but it may only need to be a platform, like they use in the Caribbean. At the moment, that could be situated on the northern side of Wavebreak Island. There could be a causeway bridge built to the mainland and passengers could be bussed in to Surfers Paradise.
'If higher volume eventuated, we could build another platform on the southern side of Wavebreak Island. Everything’s on the table.'
Captains and various experts agree that the Gold Coast would be the ideal cruise ship destination. 'They have said it’s hugely viable,' says Mundle, referring to the existing attractions and hospitality and tourism skill set. 'Of course, it will require maintenance like dredging, like most cruise ship destinations around the world.'
The scare campaigns, says Mundle are not based on proper science. 'There are surveys that show the Broadwater is ideal for many marine uses and that the Seaway is adequate, there’s no need to widen it. With today’s navigational equipment, it’s easy to get in there with no requirement for tugs.'
With a Premier on side, if not flushed with funds, Mundle is positive things will progress.
'The potential is enormous. We have Campbell Newman’s commitment to forming a local Waterways Authority, with no interference from Brisbane. We will let the LNP settle in and then start our work to continue the momentum.'
The Broadwater Sustainability Working Group is composed of specialists in their fields, relevant to the community and industry: Martin Winter, CEO of Gold Coast Tourism, John Hogan, CEO of Superior Group, Peter Shepherd, engineer and hydrologist, Don Jones, CEO of Marine Queensland and consultant from the the Gold Coast City Council, Darren Scott, who is an expert on tidal flows.
The first priority, according to Mundle, is Wavebreak Island – which is entirely man made and it turns out, the wrong shape! 'The water flow is causing severe scouring of the southern wall of the sea wall. The tidal patterns are changing, Jumpinpin is silting up and the volume of water there is much less. The velocity of the increase in water coming from the north is scouring the sea wall. We have to address that first, because it will be massively expensive if the thing breaks and we have to engage in major repair work.'
Mundle believes the Mayor and Council have a clear mandate. 'People voted for Tom Tate knowing his stance on the Terminal. It has been positively received by the people of the Gold Coast. Iain Murray is adamant we could host the America’s Cup World Series racing, or be a stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race.
'The Gold Coast could be this country’s epicentre of yachting. And not just sailing. We have a marine economy in all sectors, but what are we doing to support it? If structured properly, this could be a 10 to 20 year project that covers everything for a viable, sustainable future for the Gold Coast and with the right planning, it could all be self-funding.'
by Jeni Bone
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3:25 AM Tue 8 May 2012GMT
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