ASF TO FIGHT ON, BUT BUSINESS LEADERS SEETHING
Written on the 29 April 2015 by Jenna Rathbone & Nick Nichols
ASF Consortium has vowed to go back to the drawing board for its proposed Gold Coast cruise ship terminal amid a backlash from business leaders over the government's dumping of the $7.5 billion development planned for Wavebreak Island.
"The Gold Coast and Queensland need the 20,000 jobs this project will create. ASF Consortium wants to work with the Queensland Government to make this happen to ensure the Gold Coast remains the international tourism capital of Australia well into the future."
The Chinese-backed proponent of the integrated resort says State Development Minister Anthony Lynham indicated that the Queensland Government "valued the commitment of the consortium to Queensland and its respect for its processes, the environment and the community".
The news has kept alive hopes that the cruise terminal proposal has not been abandoned altogether, although some business leaders are seething that the government has dumped the plan ahead of ASF completing an environmental impact statement on the proposal.
"It is extremely disappointing to hear Labor has ceased all discussions around the proposed multi-billion-dollar cruise ship terminal on Wavebreak Island - it is not only a loss for the city, but a loss for the millions of tourists that board a cruise ship each year in hope of reaching a prime destination like our city," says Peter Yared, the president of Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce.
"What is more disappointing is the fact Labor did not initiate any community consultation following the election and ultimately made a decision based on a loud minority.
"Labor won zero seats on the Gold Coast in the last election which says to me that the city was more in favour of the decisions and policies put forward by the LNP and it would have been nice to see the government conduct some proper research to establish if the majority of the city was for or against the development."
Ray White Surfers Paradise Group CEO Andrew Bell agrees that proper community consultation should have been implemented prior to Labor scrapping the project.
"Wavebreak is now just a big clump of sand that people rarely ever visit, inhabited by brown snakes," says Bell.
"Always in these situations there are very vocal groups that are for or against the project that tend to dominate the conversation and I don't think enough was done to allow broader public discussion on it.
"If you make a promise before the election I guess we expect people to honour it, unless there is some compelling reason not to, and the question I would like to ask is why that decision by Labor was made beforehand without having the benefit of major public discussion.
"It is easy to believe the decision is just a political decision rather than one based on really solid public discussion."
Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk has previously told Gold Coast Business News that she has had "countless conversations with Gold Coast residents about this issue during the last three years and it is clear from these conversations, the size of rallies, and the almost 12,000 people who have signed Saved Our Broadwater's petition that the development of Wavebreak Island does not have community support".
In response to whether the government has been briefed on other options for a Gold Coast cruise ship terminal, Lynham issued the following statement:
"Everything is on the table except Wavebreak Island and the Broadwater, and, of course, subject to the usual environmental and public interest tests that any project must meet."
Gold Coast Tourism remains optimistic about the development and says there is still hope the project will come to fruition, just in a different location.
"It hasn't been totally lost for the Gold Coast," says chairman Paul Donovan.
"The ASF development has been suspended while further discussions are in place so it is as positive as it can - they haven't knocked it back totally."
Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson says now that a decision has been made, it is time to start pushing different projects in the hope Labor will support alternative infrastructure projects, such as the hinterland monorail.
He adds that he would still like to see the Broadwater developed on.
"Whether it is Wavebreak Island or something else, development around the Broadwater, which is one of our major icons, is something that needs to occur," says Davidson.
"The Broadwater is a great asset and is one that should still be considered for development and tourism infrastructure."
Mayor Tom Tate is expected to deliver a response this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Yared has raised concerns that the government continues to send a message that the Gold Coast, and more broadly Queensland, is closed for business.
"Ultimately, the cruise ship terminal had the potential to stimulate economic development through billions of dollars in local spend and would have created thousands of new jobs for locals," says Yared.
"I and business owners on the Gold Coast want to know how Labor will find a project of this magnitude with the same overwhelming benefits, including 1700 jobs.
"Minister Kate Jones recently announced her vision for tourism which was eco-tourism and education tourism, however in my experience both of these will have very little economic impact on the Gold Coast.
"Eco-tourism will be limited due to the overall number of eco-tourism attractions and the fact that education tourism normally tends to be VFR - visiting friends and relatives - which normally means they stay with the family members so contribute little to the community.
"The Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce would like to continue lobbying and working with the government to forge the city as a business destination and work to get major projects under way in the city that are mutually agreeable."
Author: Jenna Rathbone & Nick Nichols