• April 16, 2024 11:27 AM


This time, it’s barrels versus cruise ships

By Nick Carroll

Story Via Surfline

It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so wigged out crazy.

Once again, Kirra, the Australian holy of holies, is at the center of an epic shit storm – this time over the apparent revival of a planned $2 billion cruise ship port/casino/resort development at the sleepy neighboring beach of Bilinga.


It’s not the first marina proposal to be drafted for the Kirra area, but it’s by FAR the biggest, involving a huge rockwall structure designed to accommodate cruise liners of up to 500 meters in length along with a regular 500-berth marina and extra space for “superyachts”, along with the resort and casino.

All on what’s currently a big flat stretch of sand and water used mostly by a few beach walkers and guys who surf down from the Kirra main break – which would surely be the victim of this aquatic megalopolis.

The plan, presented by something called the Gold Coast Ocean Terminal Group, is backed by Leda Group, a big housing development concern headed by billionaire businessman Bob Ell. Leda has numerous development interests including plans to build up to 10,000 homes on coastal bushland just south of the Goldie.

Local surfers are gagging in dismay at the concept. They thought they’d chased it away back in 2012, when the idea was first presented to the Queensland State government in an attempt to qualify for State development significance, which is how you get around local environment concerns in this part of the world.

When that bid failed, the Terminal Group went quiet: that is until the State government recently began calling for applications for a casino development on the Gold Coast.

Bang! Back came the Terminal, complete with its amazing artist’s impressions and promises of widespread employment for some of the thousands of people who flood to the Gold Coast area each year.

The idea practically forces people to take sides. On the one hand there’s the local surfing community, led by the likes of long-term surfing identity Andrew McKinnon and by Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, who’ve stepped forward to plead with everyone to attend a mass rally and paddle-out at the site on January 19.

save our kirra

On the other hand, there’s Bob Ell, an extremely rich man who is used to getting his own way – he has been described in NSW Parliament as “stubborn” and “unafraid of litigation” after a series of still-unexplained illegal land clearances near his properties south of the Goldie – and Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, a developer himself and a huge fan of the Terminal. When Mick Fanning raised concerns about the concept back in 2012, Tate dismissed him as a know-nothing surfer. “He’s a good surfer,” Tate said at the time, “but I tend to listen to people with qualifications and information to add.”

Ouch! Ironically, Mayor Tate will be at the Quik Pro in March to open the new extended Kirra groyne, set up at some expense to make Kirra a better surf spot.

Not quite lost in the shuffle is whether or not the whole mad scheme is just a stalking horse for another gigantic cruise ship terminal/resort development proposal at the Seaway on the other end of the Gold Coast, which until now has been successfully stalled through local protests and its sheer unfeasibility; keeping the Seaway open for cruise ships would cost over $70 million a year in dredging fees alone.

Is it a case of “it’s that or we’ll destroy Kirra”? Gold Coast Ocean Terminal Group spokesman Dennis Hughes has come close to hinting as much, saying recently that if the Seaway project got a green light he’d “pack my photos (of the Bilinga thing) and go home, we’d be done and dusted”.

All this is to ignore the perennial modern elephant in the room: the weather.

The Goldie hasn’t had a direct hit from a tropical cyclone in many years, but it’s only a matter of time; and global warming patterns suggest that next time one does smash into Kirra etc, chances are it’ll be a doozy.

Building a $2 billion artificial harbor directly in such a storm’s path might seem just a little bit too much like tempting Fate.

Info about the January 19 rally and other action being taken against the Bilinga proposal can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSouthernBeachesAlliance.