A rally on Sunday 7 December, dubbed Grand Theft Wavebreak will allow the community to gather peacefully and demonstrate that there is anything but ‘a strong level of support’ for the plans of Chinese proponents of a cruise ship, residential and retail development and massive infrastructure project.
The comments around level of support relate to a statement made by Queensland’s Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney who said in August that the proponent, the ASF Consortium needs to show community support before any development will be approved.
“State land would only be made available for development if ASF could demonstrate community support for the scale of development proposed at the Broadwater,” Seeney said.
A decision on whether proponents will receive a resort licence and associated gaming licence is expected in early 2015. Coincidentally, so is a state election.
If you’ve been following the cruise ship terminal – casino – dredging – highrise and residential development – Wavebreak Island – Doug Jennings Park – The Spit saga, you’ll know that plans have grown and evolved significantly since the issue first emerged. Way back when Peter Beattie was Premier.
Blank caught up with father of three, Luke Sorensen. He’s an award-winning local photographer, the Vice President of Save Our Spit and has spent his entire life on the Gold Coast. And not surprisingly, he is very vocal in his opposition to ASF’s development proposals.
“It’s quite simple,” Luke said. “The Government, the Consortium, local MPs, the Mayor and his band of Councillors and the Deputy Premier have been overtly ignoring, censoring, subjugating and deferring from listening and responding to the public on this issue.”
Luke tells me that proposals have evolved from a last-minute election pledge from Tom Tate for a $30 million rate-payer owned floating terminal in the Seaway, to now having a whole new massive city which comprises private residential, commercial and casino spaces, dozens of highrises and the cruise ship terminal.
“Which seems to defy all known technical, geographical and scientific constraints of the area,” he added.
It’s been two years since the last rally was held at Doug Jennings Park at The Spit. It was well attended – with some saying it was the biggest rally the City of Gold Coast has seen with thousands of people showing up. The previous rally, in 2006 was also big and many of you will remember at that rally, Jeff Seeney and Lawrence Springborg stood side-by-side with a LNP commitment to protect The Spit and open space on the Gold Coast.
“And that was before we had any idea about the huge scale of development that would eventually be proposed,” Kate Mathews, president of Save Our Broadwater told me. “And we’ve only had a clear understanding in the past month. ASF have utilised commercial-in-confidence to the hilt to conceal the truth of their real plans in this matter.”
In the two years that have passed since the 2012 rally, organisations like Save Our Spit, Save Our Broadwater and Save Our Southern Beaches have been working to bring the whole process into the light. A new organisation, Gold Coast Community Association has also sprung up. And Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council have been vocal opponents since day dot.
“We’re confident that whether you like the concept of the project or not, some matters should be of concern and should be put on the table transparently,” Luke told me. He was referring to World Bank debarment of ASF consortia members, some of the questionable business practices of ASF which have seen the company referred to ASIC along with what has been considered cronyism by local activists with the Mayor’s former media adviser Simone Holzapfel being engaged by ASF.
“ASF would be using her as a conduit to Tom Tate and the mayoral office. That would be the reason they employed her. They are not dumb,” a lobbyist told the Gold Coast Bulletin in a recent story.
“The state government is aware of all the concerns and the history of these companies yet they still offer the land and Broadwater up and hide behind the so-called ‘no risk’ mantra?” Luke asked. “I think that the risk factor blew through the roof some time ago.”
So, what do local communities think is at stake? Let’s start with the environment: a large and ongoing dredging regime and the ships themselves (should they come) will have a massive impact on both water quality and biodiversity. Speaking of which, there are turtles, dugongs, dolphins, rays, eels, fish and migratory birds. In fact, people speak of the Seaway, with its 450 recorded species, as being one of the most diverse and accessible dive sites in Australia.
Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council has also expressed concern at the loss of more than 75ha of public owned open space: parks, foreshores, beaches and waterways.
Luke Sorensen adds to the list: “the social problems that come from gambling, the demand on our infrastructure, the probability that most jobs will go to foreign workers, accessibility and affordability of the area, the dive site, the surf break …”
While ASF have revealed plans to dredge the Seaway to a depth of 12 – 13 metres, the new local project director Tim Poole has said that solutions would be created to protect the break.
“We will be taking the proposal to the peak surfing bodies for their input in the coming weeks,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin in a recent story. We contacted ASF to ask which specific surfing groups they’d be consulting with but their Director couldn’t name any specifically.
“There are a number of interested parties and groups within the surfing community and we will be seeking to meet with all of them over the coming months,” Mr Poole said.
He did go on to tell me that the ASF Consortium views the wave quality at The Other Side as a very important recreational amenity and will design the dredged channel and associated sand traps to reflect that.
“The ASF Consortium is currently investigating impacts on The Other Side using highly specialised and state-of-the-art modelling techniques,” Mr Poole said.
Wait until there’s a sunny day, light southerly breeze and a nice high tide, head up there with goggles and snorkel, kayak or paddle board, with your fishing rod or tinnie, your board, a picnic basket and your kids or mates and just immerse yourself in the magic of this totally free, open, and ecologically rich place: the best inshore city dive site in Australia, one of the best beachbreaks in the world, beaches and waters that are clean and free and blue. Watch the sun set across the water (not blocked by foreign-owned 50 storey towers and flashing neon) and think for a second that this belongs to all of us, it belongs to you and me, it belongs to our kid’s kids and as we look back we’ll celebrate that we had the foresight and guts to stand up and keep it that way. These are Australian beaches and waterways, they should never be sold. Luke Sorensen, Save Our Spit
The current ASF proposal is mind-boggling, to say the least. If it goes ahead as it is currently proposed, it will include a cruise ship terminal, integrated resort, retail and residential communities. That means at least 11 hotels, 65,000m2 of retail floor area and 6,750 residences and 31,000m2 of commercial floor area. There would be 20 restaurants in the integrated resort alone and four night clubs. The largest tower would be up to 50 storeys with other towers up to 39, 26 and 22. In addition to the casino, there would be three new marina developments as well.
If you think all of that brings economic development, well yes. ASF are estimating 15,200 long-term permanent jobs. We contacted ASF to ask for specifics about the breakdown of those fifteen thousand jobs and they provided a long list of roles including everything from hairdressers, chefs, cloud computing hardware providers, security alarm installers, turf growers, wedding planners, Indigenous education and arts promotion, couriers, chefs, toy retailers and stevedore staff.
Luke Sorensen agreed that those employment figures sound impressive. “It sure does sound great doesn’t it, and I know all too well what unemployment is like, but it’s not exactly that simple. It doesn’t take long to do a little research into these companies to see what kind of jobs they offer.”
Save Our Broadwater also expressed concern at some of the claims of ASF around employment. “ASF have made it quite clear that this resort will be targeted at the Chinese,” Kate said. “So people will need to speak the language which means they can utilise 457 Visas to recruit for retail and casino positions. We won’t even get those jobs.”
“And ASF have already said that out of the 5000 jobs required to construct it in the first five years, 2000 of those won’t be local. They’ve already admitted that.”
“Given that they persistently and constantly give the best case scenario to the community, we should be very skeptical about their employment claims,” Kate said.
When we spoke with Tim Poole from the ASF Consortium he said that most of the ongoing jobs will be provided by local people and businesses.
There are also potential adverse economic impacts. Kate from Save Our Broadwater has more to say on this issue, which hasn’t had a run in mainstream media at all.
“Some local commentators have said that this development will basically hoover up all development activity on the Gold Coast for the next decade,” Kate said. “31,000m2 of commercial floor area, 62,000m2 of retail, plus the huge residential/ apartment complex. These are massive scale developments. The impact of that on Southport and other retail and residential areas on the Gold Coast will be significant. The market is not infinite.”
Add to that 6,750 new apartments, and you have a serious glut, Kate says.
The ASF Consortium is still undertaking community engagement and their Local Project Director Tim Poole told us that they’re creating mobile Project Information Centres that will travel around the Gold Coast starting in the next few weeks.
“These centres will give the community a chance to look at detailed information about the Project including visuals, will give them a chance to ask any questions and to feed back their thoughts,” Mr Poole said. “We are finalising the itineraries for the mobile centres at the moment as well planning other consultation initiatives. In the meantime, the community can continue to have their say through our website.”
The ASF Consortium was expected to undertake extensive community consultation throughout October. But their consultative efforts left many local organisations seething.
In a statement on the Gecko website, Campaigns Coordinator Lois Levy says that all the consultation undertaken by ASF were based on artist’s impressions with no firm plans or reports to provide solid information. “The community still has no real idea of what they are being consulted about or what the environmental, economic or social impacts would be,” Lois goes on to say.
Gecko also notes that some stakeholder groups consulted with were self-selected and the online survey process included questions which were not appropriate for gathering community feedback.
Jeff Seeney has made it quite clear that the ASF Consortium needs to demonstrate strong community support for their proposals. It’s no wonder then that Save Our Spit, along with dozens of other community organisations on the Gold Coast are encouraging the broadest possible cross section of people to attend the community rally on 7 December.
“I think there are still a lot of people that are willing to sit on the fence, to swing and let others decide, and hey it’s their free democratic right to do that, but all I would say is that this rally, this next election and this time in our lives has actually afforded them a great opportunity. It’s a great opportunity to make a change and participate in something great, to fight for what is theirs and leave a legacy that future generations will look back on with pride,” Luke said.
“We need development and growth, Save Our Spit and all of our community is screaming for it,” Luke said. “But we are screaming for balance, for sustainable growth and an intelligent future that thinks itself out, that makes decisions for a hundred years from now, not decisions based on irrational economic fears driven into us by the media and government of the day.”
We are not opposed to development but this massive proposal is in the wrong place. ASF should buy private land like any other developer – not steal our magnificent public open space and waterways which are a tourism and recreational heartland of our city. Kate Mathews SAVE Our Broadwater
And while Save Our Broadwater is not one of the organising groups behind the rally, there’s no question they’ll be showing up in force.
“At the moment our community is engaged in a wide range of activities,” their spokesperson Kate told Blank. “We’re letterboxing over 30,000 houses with our flier this week, we have a petition and an auto email to decision-makers. We are united with Save Our Spit and Gecko in this rally.”
“Information is dribbling out from ASF – they function by innuendo and marketing grabs rather than verifiable supporting facts – for example they still haven’t released the all-important environmental studies,” Kate said. “So it really is extremely important for people to show that they oppose the project.”
“A tangible, visible show of people on 7 December is vital,” Kate added. “If people have never attended a rally before, we encourage them to make this their first.”
As well as attending the rally, you can also sign Save Our Broadwater’s petition at saveourbroadwater.com/how-to-help.
The Southport Spit will probably become a monument to the greed, arrogance, negativity and lack of vision of those who seem incapable of rejoicing in God’s gift – Father Raymond Smith, 1987
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Rally, Grand Theft Wavebreak
Sunday 7 December, 11.00am