PREMIER KEEPS CRUISE TERMINAL HOPES ALIVE
Written on the 6 March 2015 by Nick Nichols
FIVE weeks after taking power, and repeated side-stepping over the issue, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has finally confirmed a cruise ship terminal could be developed on the Gold Coast.
In the first sign that Palaszczuk is open to discussing the matter with project proponent ASF Consortium, the Premier's office has told Gold Coast Business News that it was "happy to consider other cruise ship terminal proposals, but they must not have unacceptable environment or social impacts".
The news has been welcomed by ASF Consortium, which is progressing plans for the $6.5 billion project and expects to start its environmental impact study in August.
This week ASF also opened the way for local businesses to share in the bounty, detailing to almost 600 Gold Coast suppliers the opportunities the project will offer over the next decade.
"Any indication that the government wants to sit down and understand the depth of the proposal is encouraging," says project director Tim Poole.
However, while any talk of a new location for a cruise ship terminal is "a bit radical", Poole says it is vital to have a fact-based discussion on the issue which he argues is not occurring at the moment.
"ASF would be genuinely open to understanding how its current proposal could be modified to address both what we've heard from the community and what the new government might see as its priorities, without eroding the objectives and the benefits of the proposal too much particularly around jobs and tourism," he says
ASF expects to have initial discussions with the government shortly on the project to present the early findings of the community consultation process which began in October.
"We would hope that a new government would want to sit down and assess all the elements of this project on its merit, particularly as jobs are a priority," says Poole.
Meanwhile, ASF today drew support from both Master Builders and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland to bring home the benefits the project is expected to deliver to the Gold Coast and Queensland economy over the next 10 years.
ASF is targeting 80 per cent local participation in the project which has been described by the ASF's John Shepherd as the "equivalent of building a Gold Coast University Hospital every year for 10 years".
Shepherd says the 80 per cent target is "not a wish, but a contractual requirement of the project" which is expected to create more than 15,000 permanent jobs and 5000 construction jobs.
He says the first stage will rely heavily on professional services, such as engineering, architects and environmental scientists, and that contractors will benefit from multiple packages on offer.
Master Builders' Queensland director of construction policy, John Crittall, says the process proposed by ASF offers a unique model for local contractors and that it will be timed perfectly with the scale-back of construction activity at Curtis Island in Gladstone. Crittall says 8000 of 10,000 workers from Curtis Island will be looking for work around 2017.
"A lot of them will come back to the Gold Coast looking for work."
Crittall says the building industry is still feeling the effects of the GFC, losing an entire cohort of apprentices over four years after the downturn in 2008.
"The industry is desperately looking at ways to either reskill, retrain or up-train, and this project is ticking a lot of boxes when it comes to doing that," he says.
"A project like this is absolutely massive, but it is also staged and has the hallmarks of being a keystone project for the Coast."
Builder Buddy Randall, of Coastal Carpentry, highlights that his team has endured the strain of travelling throughout south-east Queensland in search of work in recent years.
"This project could mean a solid decade of work for myself and my team and I would be able to expand my business and employ more people," he says.
CCIQ's Gold Coast regional policy chairman Martin Brady says the project is vital for the Gold Coast jobs market which he says is not supported by major corporate or government employers.
He also says the Coast needs to keep ahead of the game with tourism infrastructure, arguing that Sydney and Melbourne are stealing market share in an increasingly competitive sector.
The proposed integrated resort development will include hotels, a casino, fine arts museum, retail space and marinas as well as residential apartments complete with public space and beaches.
The southern fringe of the project is dedicated to a new marine park in the Broadwater, while an exclusive beach retreat will be established on Moon Island to the north of Wave Break Island.
"This project is specifically designed to attract a new market, particularly a new international market," says Poole.
The first stage of construction is planned for 2017 and will comprise the integrated resort and cruise ship terminal. Total spending on the first phase is expected to reach $1.7 billion.
Poole has dismissed any suggestions that ASF Consortium is looking at compensation for the $6.5 million it has already spent on the project should the government reject the process currently in train.
"Certainly we're not seeking legal advice on any aspects of the current process," he says.
"We are obviously seeking direction from the government on the next steps.
"We're prepared and fully committed to going to the next stage. This project, despite the challenges, is still surviving and ASF is fully committed to proceeding. We've still got a job to do and we're still talking to people. A lot of the community are wanting us to give them more information about the master plan."
Author: Nick Nichols