Council & State Attempt to Trash Spit Master Plan

  • Mar 10, 2023

A TOWERING bungy structure, massive flycoaster swing, giant slides, minigolf course, pool, commercial shops and private development rising into the sky and smothering part of Philip Park - brought to you by the very same bloke who wanted to fill The Spit with V8 Supercars, screaming jet engines and 60,000 person concerts.

For the record, The Save Our Spit Alliance is strongly opposed to the emerging proposal from the AJ Hackett company to take over part of The Spit's public coastal reserve to develop grossly overreaching private tourism infrastructure and further their own commercial ambitions, despite the mayor's best efforts to quietly roll out the path paved in gold for the proponents.

The brazen proposal thus far is a Stærk contradiction when measured against the binding and iron-clad Spit Masterplan - a plan built on a foundation of years-long and intensive community, business and government consultation which sounded the resolute long-term future of The Spit. When stacked against the Spit Masterplan, it's quite the total opposite of a winning direction.

As is written in the Masterplan, Philip Park had been identified to be retained as -

“𝘢 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘦𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘢 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘵𝘴, 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭-𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩, 𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘝𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘊𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘦. 𝘈𝘯𝘺 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘮𝘢𝘹𝘪𝘮𝘶𝘮 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 7.5 𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘸𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘣𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘨𝘯. 𝘚𝘪𝘨𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘭𝘶𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘬 𝘵𝘰 𝘪𝘯𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘮 𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘵𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺, 𝘰𝘧𝘧 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱𝘸𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘬𝘴, 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦, 𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘴𝘺𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘮𝘴.”

If you didn't see the giant bungy commercial theme park in the Masterplan outcomes, don't worry, neither did anyone else.


Last Monday, Save Our Spit Alliance (SOSA) reps were invited by Councillor Taylor to meet with a team from AJ Hackett to get a look at their proposal for what would be essentially the repurposing (theft?) of about 4000 sq metres of prime beachfront public reserve - a hatched hatchet plan which would no doubt destroy and heavily impact Federation Walk and The Spit as a whole to instead accommodate a privately owned and operated commercial bungy tower theme park.

With what can only be described as a notably undercooked powerpoint presentation, the AJ Hackett team and their town planner wilfully demonstrated total ignorance and dismissal of the legal requirements contained within the Spit Master Plan, and the long-demonstrated sentiments of the local community.

When stating their case to grift prime public land from the people, the evident lack of detail in the AJHackett presentation revealed that they had likely been seriously misled or very poorly advised about the kind of support they would receive from the Community Stakeholders attending the meeting.

While at first interaction, AJ Hackett CEO Danny Hughes seemed to be a fair and decent bloke, it soon became apparent in the meeting that he had been sold a total dud (with this proposal) by the Gold Coast Mayor's office, and possibly also by his own town planner, the RPS Group.

When pressed about the origins of the proposal, Mr Hughes admitted to those present at the meeting that “Destination Gold Coast” had apparently “reached out” to him almost “18 months ago” suggesting Philip Park at The Spit would be a perfect place for a bungy jump theme park. Once on the hook, Mr Hughes came down for a look and he was then put in touch with a State Government “source” whoHughes claimed, “encouraged us to cross the road” from Seaworld to the Philip Park site.

When pressed about the resolute 3-storey height limit on the Spit, their response was “It's the same height as the Trident” - Seaworld's 43-metre tall wooden roller coaster which was snuck under the table and without any community consultation into the Spit Masterplan prior to the SMP final approvals. At the proposed Philip Park site, the height limit is actually half of the adjacent commercial site height limit - it is 7.5 metres (1 storey).

When quizzed about the obvious negative impact on Federation Walk, their response was less than sufficient and quite diversionary, saying they had “noted” that a community group was “working out of poor facilities” on the site, and that if successful they would “replace and upgrade” those facilities for the community. Really? A new shed? Pretty good price to pay for public land on the beach, a real steal most would agree, but seriously…

Is a shed a fair trade? Not when the head of Friends of Federation Walk is -

a) sitting beside you gentlemen, and

b) you don't know who she is, let alone acknowledge her five decades of work on The Spit


The land in question is Crown Land, essentially public land governed by the State and managed in partnership with the local council. Its car park and soft facilities are a key component of The Spit's amenity and user experience, providing meaningful beach access in a city where beachside congestion and restriction is a rapidly growing problem, and the site serves as a well-trafficked starting point for entry into the Federation Walk reserve for local visitors and tourists alike.

As a public space, it remains minimal, non-intrusive and proves to be a vital place for visitors when the holidays come around. As is, it has no impact on the skyline, does not disrupt the flow of the green space network, is free and publicly available, and Philip Park forms the southern part of a gazetted conservation and recreation green space and open space network.

Woven into the car park and framing the Philip Park space is a vast sprawl of greenery, soft-impact paths, birdlife and abundant natural flora - a veritable continuance of the Federation Walk Reserve. The park was officially dedicated to the late Prince Philip of England in recognition of his strong interests in conservation and the natural world.

Save Our Spit would like to draw attention to the following points in relation to Philip Park and this ill conceived proposal -

1. This proposal is totally outside the Spit Master Plan (SMP) as all commercial, hospitality and tourism developments are constrained under the SMP to the clearly identified infill sites at Village North and Village South Centres on the western side of Seaworld Drive and the Sports Mirage site on the eastern side.

2. Bungy operation proposals, or any additional theme parks on the eastern side of The Spit were never presented or discussed during the three-year Spit Master Plan process nor are they present in the Final Spit Masterplan 2019.

3. A bungy tower, slides and giant swing infrastructure would far exceed the maximum 15-metre height limit for The Spit (except an allowance for rides inside Seaworld Theme Park that can be above that height) and the 7.5-metre limit for Philip Park.

4. Allowing a bungy operation would transgress the Premier and Minister Dick's repeated assurance that no area of existing public park, open space or reserve would be lost to commercial developments (the caveat being an option for a possible cruise ship terminal however costs, biosecurity, zero commitment from cruise companies, climate change and huge navigational safety issues has halted and killed that option).

5. Whether you are a fan of the Monarchy or not, the name Philip Park was only permitted by the Royal family if it remained a public park with the environmental and ecological values Prince Philip believed in and advocated for were/are preserved - Approval to build a permanent commercial bungy jump operation on Philip Park would literally and figuratively be jumping on Prince Philip's grave.


We have since learned that for 18 months prior, this proposal has already been ticking along in the background, with the local community unaware that they were again being sold out by their own council and the State Government. The same local community that has spent decades protecting the last natural beachfront space on the Gold Coast from development – the same community that spent countless volunteer hours shaping the Spit Masterplan, the legislative backbone of what can and can't be done on the Spit.

For over 18 months there have been a whopping 27 different meetings between Cr Taylor, City of Gold Coast, State Government representatives and AJ Hackett's crew via their highly controversial lobbyist. The only time the local community has been invited to the table is after the gates were opened and the horse had already bolted … and once at said table, they attempted to treat us all like mugs.

The chief lobbyist working for AJ Hackett and the man behind the push for this hideous development is none other than former bankrupt spin man, Graham Staerk.

For anyone in the know, Staerk's chequered history of controversy and questionable government influence has placed him in the crosshairs as a key witness to multiple high-level investigations into council corruption and election funding in the past. Help yourself to Google and go check this bloke out, an eye-opening search for the uninitiated that's for sure. SOSA isn't suggesting any malpractice or illegality in this case with Staerk, but certainly the mention of his name should have set off alarm bells from the get go. Staerk's long-running and one-sided interest in development for The Spit is on the record, not to mention his tangled affairs with local council candidates.


So, just how can the proponents keep a straight face when trying to sell this blotch of steel, concrete and wires on The Spit as ‘ecotourism'? There's nothing eco about it other than it will sit atop and look down on an ever-threatened ecological space. Steel towers, fake swimming pools, artificial putt putt course, giant slides, commercial cafe and shop … there is NOTHING ecotourism about this, in fact it's about as eco as a plastics factory.


In the 1990s, The Spit was home to a bungy tower, of sorts, temporarily located on the western side facing the Broadwater. The crane-style bungy operation, known as Bungee Downunder, was set up briefly on the sandy shoreline of western side of The Spit before relocating to a sort of semi-floating platform out on the water.

Enormous in height, a dagger against the undeveloped skyline but also packed with pure thrill, the crane and demountable temporary operation was exactly that - temporary. For several years hundreds of locals and tourists alike got to experience the jump, but the crane and operation had to go - and it did.

The Gold Coast is no stranger to bungy operations, with two other previous towers also built - the relatively tame small jump in the heart of Surfers Paradise being the most recent, and the much larger pink steel permanent tower at the old Coombabah Cableski World park site.

All three previous towers no longer operate and the Cableski tower went along with the business when it collapsed after a land-clearing scandal in critical Koala habitat enveloped the site owner, and the business subsequently folded.

The heart of Surfers Paradise in amongst the glitter and buildings, or out at Movieworld or Dreamworld and the adjacent theme park sites - these are the kind of spaces primed for a bungy park operation which would see such infrastructure suitably placed.


One astonishing twist to emerge from all of this is that Tom Tate is actually backing this AJ Hackett thing to be plonked on The Spit at Philip Park, in what can only be interpreted as a total abandonment of the mayor's Oceanside Cruise Terminal pet project. Speaking to the Gold Coast Bulletin about the bungee proposal, Tate says, “I believe this is worth investigating and look forward to seeing how the community engagement goes.”

Given the proposed bungy operation would consume a significant percentage of the very same site he had plans drawn up to house his Oceanside Cruise Terminal, it's a glaring passive admission that the terminal is, as it has been from day one, stone cold dead in the water.

It's equally astonishing the newspaper didn't put two and two together here and press the mayor on why he would support a permanent commercial development of such limited scale to both wipe out the (in limbo) oceanside terminal project and permanently take over critical coastal public park and reserve space for little to no direct public benefit at all.


SOSA calls on all parties within all levels of local and state government to stop wasting the public's and the proponent's time, and to immediately put this proposal where it belongs - in the bin. Apologise for misleading the AJ Hackett company people and get to work assisting them to find a more suitable site for their operations.

SOSA is not opposed to a bungy style operation or bungy park somewhere on the Gold Coast – Adventure Tourism is a significant market that our city could benefit greatly from and we need to tap into further. AJ Hackett are one of the best at providing that kind of product (not so much at presentations to stakeholders though).

Bring on the bungy we say, BUT IT ABSOLUTELY needs to be on an appropriate site and the Spit is certainly not that place.

There are plenty of commercial sites on the Gold Coast that would better suit this operation, in particular in Surfers Paradise and the existing theme park sites.

Why not partner with Dreamworld? Why not lease or buy suitable commercial land? If they want to build it on the Spit, then do it under the SMP, there are commercial sites available for tender on the western side of Seaworld Drive going at market rates and leased from the State Government – go for your life!

But remember the SMP limits all buildings and structures to a maximum 15 metres in height on the western side of The Spit (unless they are rides inside the Seaworld Theme Park precinct) and 7.5 metres maximum height on the eastern side of The Spit.

Finally, as stated above, while Mr Hughes appeared to be a reasonable person in the meeting (and probably is), it was an insult to the community members sitting around the table on Monday, that those blokes were led to believe they could just walk in without truly acknowledging the local community and completely dismissing the tenets of the Spit Master Plan in an attempt to appropriate public land with some poorly photoshopped pics and hollow promises of very questionable future community benefits.

Either wilful ignorance or sheer arrogance (or both) has underlined the process regarding this project to this point, and the AJ Hackett crew appear to have been very poorly advised by their own town planner and lobbyist (a refund forthcoming?), the Mayoral office, Council and State representatives.

Again, Mr Hackett, please do bring your bungy to the Gold Coast, just not on Philip Park. You should be made to pay your way like everyone else, regardless of what our loose-lipped Mayor has promised you.

Paul Weston GCB
Gold Coast Bulletin - Paul Weston March 10 2023

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Mar 30, 2006 What the Gaven by-Election Candidates said »
Mar 23, 2006 Gaven by-Election Media Release »
Mar 19, 2006 Peter Beattie meets SOSA at Robina »
Mar 12, 2006 An historical journey »
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 »