A $200-million plan for an offshore cruise ship terminal at Tugun near the Tweed-Gold Coast border is set to create a wave of protests from surfers and environmentalists.
The proposal, by billionaire developer Bob Ell’s Leda Group which is behind the Tweed’s two biggest housing subdivisions at Kings Forest and Cobaki, includes three hotels, a casino, three terminal berths, a water park, an underwater observatory, new North Kirra surf club and a super-yacht marina.
Tugun is just north of the former world-class point break at Kirra on the Gold Coast and the popular Tweed surf break at Duranbah Beach (D’bah).
US warships are also touted to berth there for rest and recreation and the plans also propose to ferry passengers on the cruise ships anchored offshore into the Tweed on smaller craft.
It’s believed the company has already had discussions on the ambitious plan with new Queensland premier Campbell Newman and new Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate.
Mr Tate, who recently visited Florida looking at similar offshore cruise ship terminals, told News Ltd journalists that major research would be undertaken for the Tugun option to ensure the popular surf breaks were not impacted.
But well-known Byron Bay surfer, environmental activist and former NSW MLC, Ian Cohen, has labelled the idea as ‘stupid’ and old fashioned.
‘It’s very 1980s, it reminds me of a similar plan many years ago by Alan Bond for a huge marina development off Ocean Shores,’ Mr Cohen told Echonetdaily.
‘But there was a storm of protest and they pulled their heads in.
‘There is already a burgeoning surfing population already crowding out the Gold Coast which will inevitably spill over into Tweed and Byron beaches and down to Lennox Head.
‘If they ruin these iconic surf breaks, which they no doubt will, it will spill down and absolutely destroy surf breaks and quality of life all the way down the coast.
‘We really have been protected here in Byron with the Gold Coast catchment of quality waves there, but it that falls away, it will be like a tsunami on surfing areas all the way down the coast.’
Mr Cohen is famed for his unique and ‘exhilirating’ protest in 1986 when he surfed Sydney Harbour clutching the bow of a US warship.
Gold Coast mayor Mr Tate told media he had ‘no problem’ with the location of a terminal in Tugun ‘because it links closely to the airport, and I can see the benefit that passengers can transfer from a domestic flight to a cruise quite easily’.
He said it would ‘even give rise for the extension of the light rail to Tugun’.
‘I know the south feels left out from time to time. This may be a good project for them to embrace. I think, however, that we need to consult the surf industry and the effect it may have on the breaks down there,’ the mayor told News Ltd.
‘We are working towards bringing back the Kirra groyne so we can restore the breaks and Kirra to be world class and I wouldn’t want to see this terminal jeopardise that.’
Surfrider Foundation national board member Brendan Donohoe told News Ltd that surfers from around the world would boycott the Gold Coast if the terminal went ahead.
Mr Donohoe said the surf break at Kirra would be ‘destroyed’ as a result and if surfers ‘don’t stand up against the absolute arrogant rubbish of the Kirra proposal, we may as well pick up and go home across the world. Bring it on Bob, we’ll see you in the surf’.
But a Leda Group spokesman told media their research showed the terminal would not affect the waves, and could even increase their size.