News State QLD News Cruise ships, ‘selfie tower’, superyachts: Making over the natural gateway to the Gold Coast

Cruise ships, ‘selfie tower’, superyachts: Making over the natural gateway to the Gold Coast

The Southport Spit on the Gold Coast Photo: Gold Coast Waterways Authority
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A park at the centre of a decades-long development debate would feature a “selfie” tower and docks for superyachts under a watered-down version of a plan to make over a strip of land forming the natural gateway to the Gold Coast.

Cruise ship passengers could also alight at Southport Spit in future, while light rail over water would connect the park to the highway.

The latest proposal to give The Spit a major facelift is far from past visions of towering apartments, glitzy casinos and exclusive pools – the plans for which were thrown out after public backlash.

Chinese-backed consortium ASF wanted to build a casino and resort on The Spit.
Chinese-backed consortium ASF wanted to build a casino and resort on The Spit but was rejected by the Queensland government. Photo: ASF

But fears over the possibility of a cruise ship terminal remain, after a draft master plan released on Sunday flagged the potential for land to be set aside for the potential build.

There is also reference to considerations for a “beach club” outside the Sheraton Mirage hotel, though no further explanation of what that would look like, sparking concerns of a push to shut up sections of sand for exclusive access by paying guests.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has publicly backed the plan for a cruise ship terminal, and in its latest report the state government said plans to build a ship terminal would be left up to the local council.

“It is important to note that the master plan’s consideration of the effects of the potential cruise ship terminal does not imply state government support for, or opposition to, the terminal,” the draft plan reads.

The ABC reported in 2017 that it had uncovered a redacted report revealing safety concerns with a $450 million Gold Coast oceanside terminal. 

A plan submitted to the federal environment department had included provision for up to 150 cruise ships to visit The Spit annually.

On Sunday, the new blueprint for the area attracted mixed responses from Gold Coast residents ranging from praise for reaching a “compromise”, and calls to “leave it alone” completely to cruise ship interest groups who claimed they were locked out of the consultation process.

Locals had feared the bushland and park would be taken over by glitzy hotels, with concerns from water users that the beach was the only local surf spot not to be towered over by high-rises.

Artist's impression of northern end of The Spit near the Seaway
Artist’s impression of northern end of The Spit. Photo: Queensland government

The Spit is a peninsula separating the Broadwater from the open sea.

Save our Spit Alliance president Steve Gration said the Palaszczuk government was the first in 15 years of the lobby group’s history to provide “meaningful” community consultation and he welcomed the plans to protect habitats and recreational trails.

But Dr Gration said the alliance would “vehemently” fight against any plans to make parts of the beach exclusive and any proposals for a cruise ship terminal.

In 2017 the government rejected a proposal by Chinese-backed ASF to build a five-tower resort and casino at The Spit following public outrage over the plan.

A second casino is on the horizon for the Gold Coast but it’s not yet known where it would be built.

The newly-released draft master plan is vastly different from the luxury visions of the ASF consortium, but according to artist’s impressions it would still represent a significant change to the landscape.

Plazas, bars, a waterside function centre, and markets would be part of the development.

The report said some of the precinct proposals emerged after the release of the master plan options.

They included a proposal for jetties, a skate park, solar panels and “a beach club facility” outside Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort.

The plan includes making seven precincts to enhance the green space north of Sea World, including introducing some low-impact camping facilities on Wavebreak Island and improving tracks for walking and cycling.

The area, popular with surfers and divers, would also become the site of an artificial underwater “sculpture garden” for diving.

In the south of The Spit, meanwhile, “sensitive” commercial building would be allowed, but only up to three storeys high.

Photographs in the draft plan showed designers were inspired by the marina at Fremantle in Western Australia and Eastern Beach in Geelong, Victoria.

Aerial view of the Southport Spit, known to locals as "The Spit".
The Southport Spit, known to locals as “The Spit”. Photo: Queensland government

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the “Ocean Park” would transform The Spit while keeping 140 hectares of the area’s 201 hectares for park activities.

The government said the area would rival the best parks in the world, including New York’s Central Park (340 hectares) and Hyde Park London (142 hectares).

It would preserve the area for future generations, Ms Palasczuk said, and would even come with a “selfie tower for tourists to capture the best shots of the famous Gold Coast skyline”.

“Our plans will make this not just a jewel of the Gold Coast but for the entire state,” she said.

State Development Minister Cameron Dick said the rejuvenation of The Spit was “designed by the community for the community,” the result of 18 months of consultation.

“The process has brought consensus to an iconic part of the Gold Coast that has seen its share of conflict,” Mr Dick said.

The public has until the end of March to comment on the plan.

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