Gold Coast cruise ship terminal’s financial viability questioned, government report released

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The financial viability of proposed $450 million Gold Coast cruise ship terminal is being questioned.

Gold Coast councillors and community groups are questioning the financial viability of the city’s proposed $450 million cruise ship terminal, after a confidential Queensland Government report shows the project would need to be much larger than planned for.

Key points:

  • The report recommends the jetty more than double its width over land, the loss of more than 300 car space and more than 25 hectares of open space
  • The Gold Coast City architect said the proposed changes made sense and ‘isn’t surprising’
  • A Gold Coast Councillor said the changes will impacts construction costs and the cruise terminal’s business case

The Queensland Government commissioned report was produced last December but kept confidential until it was released to the ABC under Right To Information laws on Tuesday.

The draft report evaluated the Gold Coast City Council’s plans for an offshore terminal on the oceanside of the Southport Spit, just north of Surfers Paradise.

Its significant findings included updated plans for the 900-metre terminal jetty to more than double its width over land, more than 300 car parks to be lost to the beachgoing public, and more than 25 hectares of open space to be lost.

The report recommended the jetty would need to include four lanes over sand dunes, growing from the planned 7m in width to 15–16m, if it was to accommodate trucks and passenger movements.

Gold Coast Councillor Glenn Tozer, who has consistently voted against the project, said recommendations would have an impact on the cost of building the proposed terminal.

“We need to do the right thing by the public by making sure they understand that perhaps we haven’t counted up all the money that might need to go into this,” he said.

“And we need to work out whether there are actually other major projects that could be more important and could be better delivered.”

Artist's impression of proposed Gold Coast cruise ship terminal.

The report did not calculate the proposed new jetty costs but did conclude: “this change will have implications for the indictive construction cost and business case”.

Cr Tozer believed this new information could have a significant impact on public opinion about the proposed terminal.

“Those decisions that we make that are the best decisions they hold weight over time,” he said.

“As more information becomes available on this project, I think more of the public will realise it is not actually a project we should be prioritising.”

In a statement, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said “Council will present its business case to the State Government once the Spit Masterplan has been finalised and endorsed”.

Changes ‘not surprising’

Former Queensland Government architect and Gold Coast City architect, Phillip Follent, said the proposed change in jetty size made sense.

“It beggared belief that a structure only 7m wide could go out and service that [terminal], which had to bring passengers to and from a ship as well as all the provisions,” he said.

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An aerial video of the Gold Coast SpitABC NEWS

“So it isn’t surprising to see a structure recommended to be twice the width.”

Mr Follent estimated a change in jetty size would add a major cost to construction.

“It is not necessarily twice the cost but it is certainly going to be a huge extra cost on the project,” he said.

A 2017 council report into the financial viability of the project, produced before proposed changes to the jetty, found the terminal would be unlikely to make enough money within its first 30 years to cover construction costs.

But it did find the terminal would provide economic benefit to the city including supporting about 3,500 jobs.

The latest Queensland Government report also found the loss of more than 300 public car parks “may discourage use of the beach by the general public and place greater demand on facilities elsewhere on The Spit”.

It anticipated a different look for the area.

“A change in character in this area of The Spit from predominantly an open green space to an urban space characterised by built form, parking and vehicle movement,” the report said.

The Queensland State Development Minister, Cameron Dick, was contacted for comment.