Tourism Gold Coast - part 2

  • Jan 13, 2020

A Study of the Gold Coast - The Value of Clean Beaches and Waterways

Attempted Sabotage

Unfeasible Shipping Ports

Since 1986, the Gold Coast community have opposed State Government, Gold Coast City Council and private entrepreneurial attempts to establish a commercial port to host cruise ships and military vessels on the Broadwater, Wavebreak Island and Spit beaches and in the Seaway.

The tourism and recreational dive industry and dive schools operating out of the Seaway bring far greater economic, job and tourism benefits to the Gold Coast (without destroying the existing marine environment) than any perceived benefits of a commercial cruise port that would by necessity destroy the current dive amenity ($150 million per annum) and marine ecology in the Seaway and Broadwater.

The Gold Coast City Council's (GCCC) current proposal for a cruise port on The Spit at Philip Park requires construction of a jetty more than 1 kilometre into the ocean and a 700 metre rock wall on the ocean floor that will destroy the heritage protected Scottish Prince dive wreck. This proposal will also create a wave shadow that will destroy the surf beach amenity on The Spit ($10-20 million per annum) in addition to destroying protected green turtle nesting sites on the Philip Park beach.
refer Dr Steve Gration Talks Cruise Terminal Secrecy | ABC 91.7 Drive with Matt Webber

The GCCC's "Feasibility Study" report into its current Oceanside Cruise Ship Terminal (OCST) on The Spit reveals that this project will cost $500 million to construct and "no private investor is likely to be interested" because the OCST will run "at a nett operating loss of $40-150 million" during its life of 30 years.

The report reveals that the cruise ship port will create only 61 part-time jobs (41 FTE) and only on the days cruise ships are in port. Given the rare occasion that a cruise vessel's itinerary coincides with ocean and meteorological conditions on the Gold Coast that are suitable for safe navigation, few or no cruise ships will ever dock on the Gold Coast.

The Council's report also suggests the GCCC may have to use $500 million of ratepayer funds from Council's cash reserves to construct the shipping port.
refer Gold Coast Cruise Ship Terminal

ASF Wavebreak Is Apocalypse

Unwanted Casinos

Prior to the latest OCST proposal, the GCCC, in conjunction with the LNP State Government, were preparing to legislate for a Chinese Government backed financial broker ASF China Casino consortium and their major partners (Chinese Government engineering co's), to landfill Wavebreak Island (public park in the Broadwater) to three times its size and construct a mega-high rise city (housing over 100,000 foreign residents and tourists) on the island with a casino, cruise ship port, private apartments and retail stores. This 'development' would have put the entire southern Broadwater, in addition to major portions of The Spit, into the hands of foreign investors and potentially the Chinese Government.
refer Seeney not winning friends on Coast
refer Cowards Lies and China Syndrome

It was only the surprising defeat of the LNP in the 2015 Queensland State elections and all the current tourism, recreational, public and environmental assets documented above, that saved The Spit and Broadwater. The incoming Labor Government, being true to its campaign policy, cancelled the ASF China "Integrated Resort Development" process and project.

Tim Nichols

The incoming LNP Opposition leader, Tim Nicholls, stated that had the LNP been re-elected in 2015, the ASF China 'development' would have gone ahead.
refer Election Result Sinks Gold Coast Terminal

Deliberately Lit Fires 2015


A pattern of arson has been present on The Spit since the early 2000's. The heritage listed Humphrey's Boat Shed situated on prized crown-land on the southern Spit was destroyed by an arsonist's fire in 2004. Prior to that fire, three systematically lit fires on the northern Spit occurred at the time a community group, Friends of Federation Walk, were establishing a coastal reserve on ocean-side of The Spit through major coastal tree plantings.

The most recent major fire on The Spit was on November 2019 and prior to that major fires 'occurred' in January 2019; December 2018, November 2016; and November 2015.

The fires follow the pattern of being started within weeks of some new hotel, casino, cruise ship terminal, high-rise apartment or private marina proposal by private developers or Council being announced in media.

Typically, the proposals receive major opposition from the Gold Coast Community and soon after, on hot and dry days with a North Westerly wind (relatively rare wind for the Gold Coast but strategic for major fire damage to the Spit), the northern and/or central Spit is set alight. Police and Fire authorities have concluded that most of the major fires on The Spit were deliberately lit.

Tree Planting Day

Ocean Outfall

Another emerging concern for the water quality on Gold Coast beaches is the GCCC's plans to continue and expand the antiquated and unsustainable exercise of pumping the Gold Coast's treated sewage and 'spent water' directly into the ocean (ocean outfall).

The GCCC claims:

Sewage (or wastewater) is used or spent water from domestic, commercial and industrial sources. Domestic wastewater or sewage comes from sinks, baths, showers, toilets and washing machines in our homes.

The City of Gold Coast collects and treats sewage to produce recycled water, before discharging what has not been re-used. We ensure it is treated to a high standard which meets or exceeds the Department of Environment and Science environmental licence requirements, before discharge.

The Council currently pumps the treated effluent into the ocean out pipes situated in the Gold Coast Seaway on outgoing tides.

The Council's plans are to run a pipe from its northern treatment plant at Coomera, under the Broadwater and across South Stradbroke Island in order to pump treated effluent directly offshore from the Island's major surf beach.

Only a relatively small portion of treated water is currently used on Gold Coast parks and sporting grounds or for industrial and commercial uses; however, a stand out exception is the regular use of treated water on vegetation at the community managed Federation Walk Coastal Reserve on The Spit, following the initiative and insistence of the community group, Friends of Federation Walk.

All scientific and ecological evidence challenges the use of 'ocean outfall' practices when as an alternative, it could/should be regulation for tertiary treated water to be installed in all new apartment developments and housing estates on the Gold Coast as an alternative to using precious drinking water for the use on gardens and flushing toilets.

Also treated water could/should be piped west to communities and regions that have been (and will be) suffering long-term water shortages and drought due to climate change.

Pollution and Degradation

All the recent Broadwater and Spit proposals for private high-rise apartments and hotel developments, casinos, cruise ship ports and other industrial, commercial and polluting 'developments' and practices would/will potentially cause:

environmental degradation, pollution, destruction and/or loss of access to public parks, waterways and open space; pollution and degradation of estuarine and ocean water quality; destruction of surf beach amenity and wildlife and marine habitat; loss of cycling and walking connectivity; loss of and restrictions to boating, diving, fishing and sailing amenity; and loss of public access to these recreational and tourism activities and attractions.

The Gold Coast assets of beaches, wildlife, nature parks and islands are also what the statistics reveal are the most appealing attractions to both domestic and international tourists and visitors as documented by Tourism Australia in their 2020 study and survey.

Aerial View Spit South Stradbroke Is

Protecting Our Social Assets

Gold Coast Residents are also protective of the social assets of their waterways:

[A] survey of Gold Coast residents... revealed significant appreciation of waterways values and support for enhanced management of waterways. Approximately 91% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that waterways are a significant reason why they chose to live on the Gold Coast, and 96% agreed or strongly agreed that waterways contribute to their personal health and wellbeing.

Analysis of the qualitative survey data indicated that the social values residents placed on Gold Coast waterways were often associated with the need to protect and enhance the natural aspects of the waterways.

This was supported by the finding that 86% of survey respondents believe that more should be done to protect and enhance the natural aspects of waterways such as cleanliness of water, healthy riparian vegetation and protection of wildlife.

Furthermore, the majority of respondents (66%) support more resources being used for waterway management, even if that meant a very small increase in their property rates or rent.

(Socio-economic uses and economic value study of the Gold Coast Waterways. NC Economics & GCWA. September 2017.)

The Spit Master Plan

In 2018, the State Labor Government commenced a master plan process for The Spit to establish a shared vision by the community for the long term future of The Spit. After an extensive 18-month master planning process the Queensland Government released The Spit Master Plan

The master plan secures the future of 138 hectares of green space, unlocks the potential for 1800 new jobs, provides for more than 800 new short-term accommodation rooms and creates vibrant community spaces and outstanding natural areas.

The community helped shape the master plan through more than 23,000 pieces of feedback received during the master planning process, and conversations with thousands of people at pop-up sessions and other events.

The master plan was led by the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning and undertaken in collaboration with the Gold Coast City Council and the Gold Coast Waterways Authority.

Gold Coast Waterways Authority

The waterways contribute enormously to the laidback lifestyle of the region by providing a wide range of recreational opportunities. The waterways also have an impact on the Gold Coast's regional economy.

The Gold Coast Waterways Authority (GCWA) has responsibility for improving and maintaining navigational access to the waterways; the long term operation of the Sand Bypass System; improving marine facilities for the public; and managing the sustainable use of the waterways for marine industries, tourism and recreation.

The GCWA mission is to manage and enhance Gold Coast waterways in partnership with the public and on behalf of the Queensland Government.

GCWA CEO, Hal Morris, says last year the authority spent $7.8 million dredging the waterways, $1.2 million in recreational pontoons and upgraded pontoons, $1.3 million on a waterfront park in Surfers Paradise, $2 million upgrading Doug Jennings Park on The Spit and more than $2 million on boat ramps.

opening of upgrades to Doug Jennings Park

"The waterways are important for industry but we also need to provide things such as rest stops for migratory birds and at the same time you want people to use it recreationally."

The authority has 29 employees including a highly trained, fast response team that can swiftly respond to environmental emergencies such as oil spills.

Morris says the Authority also has a 10-year management strategy outlining how it will work with partner organisations to sustain, enhance and promote the waterways.


  • Equity of access: Present and future generations should have fair and equal access to resources and opportunities.
  • Ecological and structural integrity: Decisions and actions will maintain the biological diversity and physical robustness of the waterways.
  • Community involvement: Progress towards sustainability requires the support and involvement of the whole community.
  • Continual improvement: Continual improvement in performance will be based on accountability, transparency and good governance.

The GCWA) has established a Scientific Innovation Advisory Committee (SIAC) to provide technical advice related to the management of Gold Coast waterways. Members of SIAC bring expertise across the fields of coastal management, marine ecology, planning, climate adaptation, environmental economics, tourism and natural resource management.

The State Government is introducing legislation to expand the GCWA's roles, scope and capabilities to enable it to deliver the capital works program in the implementation of The Spit Master Plan (see above).

The Future of Gold Coast Tourism

"The Gold Coast has cemented its title as Australia's tourist capital, with holidaymakers flocking to the city in record numbers."

International Visitors

  • There were 1.1million international visitors to the Gold Coast in the year ending June 2019, steady (up 0.2%) compared to the year prior. These visitors spent $1.4b in the region, up 3.8% year on year.
  • Education visitation grew by 26.4% to 26,000 and education nights were up by 23.2% to 2.5m. Education visitors stay longer than other visitor types with an average length of stay of 96.5 nights, although this was down by 2.6 nights year on year.
  • China is the Gold Coast's largest international source market, accounting for 26% of all international visitors to the Gold Coast. Chinese visitation decreased by 2.6% over the year to 271,000 but still remains the most popular region in the state for the Chinese visitor market.
  • Visitation from the USA, the Gold Coast's fifth largest market, grew by 4.2% to a record 42,000 visitors. Across the Gold Coast's other major markets, visitation grew from New Zealand (up 2.8% to 209,000) and Japan (up 13.4% to 73,000). However, visitation from the UK decreased by 13.3% to 58,000.

The 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia (and the health hazards associated with air pollution from bushfire smoke) have led the USA Government to issue travel warnings to its citizens to avoid travel to Australia until the our National bushfire crisis diminishes. This may have a negative impact on future tourism and USA visitation figures.

Domestic Visitors

  • Visitation to the Gold Coast reached a record 4.2million domestic overnight visitors for the year ending June 2019, representing growth of 18.5% over the past year.
  • Similarly, visitor expenditure increased 21.9% to a record $3.8 billion. The average length of stay (ALoS) increased to 3.9 nights (up 0.1 nights), which led to a 22.8% year on year increase in total nights for the region (now 16.4 million nights).
  • Just over half (51%) of visitors were interstate travellers. Interstate travel to the Gold Coast grew by 12.8% to a record 2.1million visitors. The holiday segment increased 21.4% to 1.2million visitors, business travel increased 8.7% to 333,000 and the VFR segment grew 2.8% to a record 528,000 interstate visitors.

The Gold Coast welcomed a record number of visitors from Sydney (up 13.2% to 693,000) and Melbourne (up 17.1% to 420,000). New South Wales and Victoria accounted for the majority of interstate visitation in the year ending June 2019 (58% and 28% of interstate visitation, respectively).

April 2019:

Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista said the Gold Coast's appeal translated into record figures for the city.

Domestic overnight spend grew by almost 20 per cent, which is a phenomenal result for our tourism economy," Ms Battista said.

"It's imperative that we don't take domestic travellers for granted, they are our bread and butter and are often repeat visitors, so as an industry we need to ensure our offering remains relevant and enticing.

Airport Arrivals

Gold Coast Airport passenger numbers increased by 1.7 per cent in the past 12 months [2018 Financial Year] helping the airport to clock up its busiest year ever.

Survey data shows three in every five of the 6.6 million Gold Coast Airport passengers are visitors, with international travellers most commonly arriving from Auckland, while domestic visitors are usually from Sydney or Melbourne.

"Overall it is the domestic market that has shown the most growth, achieving a 2.2 per cent uplift" for the Gold Coast Airport.

You can arrive at Gold Coast Airport and enjoy a Gold Coast River Cruise almost immediately.

River Cruise Gold Coast

Clean Beaches and Waterways

In 2018-19, despite a 2.6% fall to 271,000 in Chinese visitors to the Gold Coast, New Zealand visitors were up by 2.8% to 209,000 and overall international visitor spend was up 3.8% from the previous year to $1.4 billion.

In 2018-19, Domestic visitors from Sydney were up 13%, Melbourne visitors up 17% and Brisbane day-trippers up 35%. The Domestic visitor spend on the Gold Coast was up 20% from the previous year. The Gold Coast reached a record 4.2 million domestic overnight visitors for the year ending June 2019 with a record visitor spend of $3.8 billion.

It is clear that it would be economic and environmental vandalism and major sabotage of our Gold Coast tourism industry to allow a financially unfeasible and polluting cruise ship port and infrastructure with its huge navigational safety risks to be constructed on any of the Gold Coast's beaches, parks or waterways.

The bottom line is that waterways are a very important economic and social asset that assists in underpinning the Gold Coast's phenomenal success as a world class destination for tourism and regional growth more broadly. There is a strong economic and social case for enhanced management. This is also supported strongly by the community and waterway-reliant businesses alike.

Key findings from research and economic modelling include:

  • The estimated value of ecosystem services attributable to the waterways is around $670 million per annum. This is dominated by recreational use by locals that is not normally counted within any typical economic measure of the regional economy. In addition, research and surveys revealed that some tourism and marina businesses would relocate to other regions if the waterways were seriously and permanently degraded (either lack of safe access through waterways, or significant declines in water quality).
  • We have also capitalised these annual values using population and industry growth forecasts to establish a proxy natural capital value for the waterways. While this estimate should be treated with some caution due to limitations on data quality, we estimate that the natural capital value of the waterways is around $26 billion.

Value Study of Gold Coast Waterways


In addition to the "natural capital value of $26 billion" attributed to the Gold Coast waterways, the case AGAINST alienation of beaches and waterways for cruise ports or other private industry or commercial developments is reinforced by the huge economic, job and tourism value and appeal that surfing, boating, diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing, nature/wildlife, sports competitions, kayaking, SUP, cycling, walking, running, swimming, fitness, health, adventure, education, science, outdoor concerts and recreational activities (dog walking, beachside bbq's and family picnics) derives from the Gold Coast Spit, Broadwater, Islands and Ocean Beaches:

3.3 Economic Contribution of Recreational Expenditure

The analysis reveals the significant importance of [Waterways] recreational activity-based expenditure on the regional economy. The mid-point estimate of the contribution to Gross Regional Product is $125 million, and including flow-on impacts, the total economic contribution is around $200 million. Direct jobs attributable to the expenditure are around 2,300, and around 3,600 including the flow on impacts.

(Socio-economic uses and economic value study of the Gold Coast Waterways. NC Economics & GCWA. September 2017.)

A commitment to maintaining 'Clean Beaches and Waterways' on the Gold Coast will ensure they remain a driving force behind local jobs and the Gold Coast economy. Our beaches and waterways and their associated parks, natural environments and open spaces continue to rank at the top of the Gold Coast's major appeal to residents, visitors and tourists, while also hosting some of the most bio-diverse vegetation, wildlife, avian and marine species of any location in Queensland.

It's time to finally recognize and protect the environmental, social, ecological and economic values of our beaches and waterways. In doing so, we may achieve one of the aims of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) - implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism - to maximize the contribution of tourism to socio-economic development, while minimizing its possible negative impacts.

Aerial View Of Spit

Researched, Compiled, Composed, Written and Edited by Dr Steven Gration – January 2020.
Sources and References
Gold Coast City Council. Source: Surf Industry Review and Economic Contributions Assessment, Aug 2009.
Robert (Bob) Westerman. Birds of The Broadwater and The Spit - Gold Coast, Australia. Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, 2014.
(Socio-economic uses and economic value study of the Gold Coast Waterways. NC Economics & GCWA. September 2017.)

Why Cruise Ships will never Dock on Gold Coast

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Mar 5, 2006 Surf cola »
Mar 5, 2006 Storm surf breaks across Seaway »
Feb 21, 2006 Labor 'greed' on tunnel fiasco - sounds familiar »
Feb 19, 2006 Surf Rage »
Feb 17, 2006 Surfrider - media release »
Feb 13, 2006 Gold Coast - too good for a shipping terminal »
Feb 13, 2006 Peter Beattie and co's dancing figures »
Feb 8, 2006 Master Mariner questions sanity of proposal »
Feb 5, 2006 Surfers promise to wipe out Labor »
Feb 5, 2006 Councillor Susie Douglas's inspiring rally speech »
Feb 3, 2006 Letters to the 'Bully' »
Jan 25, 2006 Surfrider says »
Jan 24, 2006 Pro Terminal threaten to attend rally »
Jan 12, 2006 Public Rally Feb 5th 12 noon »
Jan 11, 2006 Anna Bligh confirms it's not a done deal »
Jan 9, 2006 Who Murdered Mundaka - is Straddie next? »
Dec 21, 2005 MP's Ciobo and Langbroek not happy »
Dec 16, 2005 Ms Levy's band of do-gooders »
Nov 28, 2005 A new Picture - future Spit »
Nov 23, 2005 Anna Bligh and misinformation »
Nov 11, 2005 Bulletin gone quiet »
Nov 5, 2005 Surfrider Foundation's support »
Nov 5, 2005 US Forces get the nod »
Nov 1, 2005 The Global War on Tourism »
Oct 25, 2005 Are Cruise Ships getting too big? »
Oct 14, 2005 Meeting Tuesday 18th October SOS »
Oct 13, 2005 Brad Farmers Message - Letter to the editor »
Oct 11, 2005 A very personal attachment to the Spit »
Oct 10, 2005 Map - SOS opposition to Government Plans »
Oct 7, 2005 Increased Cancer Risk From LA Port Complex Fumes »
Oct 6, 2005 From Strength to Strength in our campaign »
Sep 28, 2005 Venice Sinking under cruise ships »
Sep 21, 2005 Thats not reality but this is »
Sep 18, 2005 EIS rubber stamp? »
Sep 5, 2005 Letter to Bulletin »
Aug 29, 2005 Excerpts: »
Aug 28, 2005 Plans for lakes of effluent on Straddie !!! »
Aug 23, 2005 Not Exactly The Love Boat - New Book »
Aug 3, 2005 Premier sinking Gold Coast dive industry »
Aug 2, 2005 Thumbs up for Councillor Susie Douglas »
Aug 1, 2005 World Class Waves at Risk »
Jul 18, 2005 New Stickers Available »
Jul 18, 2005 Save our spit campaign highlights »
Jul 18, 2005 People and Parks Day Sunday 31st July »
Apr 20, 2005 Trinity Lutheran College Cruise Ship Debate »