To be or not to be: the Gold Coast Oceanway

To be, or not to be, that is the question – as the battle of the Gold Coast Oceanway reignites only to sadly disconnect the  quaint coastal community of Tugun.

Beach accessibility, coastal social-class clashes, desires for ocean views and obsession with the beach experience are social concerns and values that can influence the way we use, develop and manage beaches. The Gold Coast is a classic example of how social concerns and values for beachfront views flattened the dunes, subdivided beachfront lots for residential development and in between saw the rise of coastal parks, viewing platforms, car parks, playgrounds, surf clubs and hotels. Then once prime beachfront locations were sold out we started to build upwards to maximise the opportunity for ocean views to the extent where highrises now blanket shadows over the beloved beaches. And soon enough developers dredged and infilled the swamps and coastal lowlands to create Florida-inspired canal and lake estates to capitalise on our geography, climate and social-obsession with a waterfront view.

You can understand why outsiders give the Gold Coast so much slack from the over development of the coast. But locals are proud and being a home-grown coastal expert it’s important to understand the Gold Coast story. At the same time it is also important to advocate for what’s best for the beaches we all adore and in this case I am referring to the Oceanway.

Quick background for non Gold Coast localsthe Oceanway is the ocean pathway extending from Point Danger to The Spit. There are only a few locations where it doesn’t connect – basically where there is no space for a 5m-wide north to south pathway corridor.

Despite the Gold Coast City Council abandoning the concept of the Oceanway to connect the south of Bilinga with the north of Tugun after extensive consultation in 2011-12 showed 64.37 per cent of the community were against it, it has been campaigned and recampainged by pro-Oceanway campaigners who almost got it over the line early 2014 – or so they thought. But once again, it was downed and for good reasons.

Now I haven’t been entirely public on my position for or against the Oceanway. So, I believe it is time to come clean.

You see we are debating about 1.7km of coastline! And 1.7km of coastline where beachfront properties abut the beach. The only thing between the properties and the beach is a seawall to protect them from extensive coastal erosion that we have experienced not too far north of Tugun – e.g. Palm Beach (there you can’t even squeeze in a few dune plants to encourage dune development let alone the Oceanway). Currently, the public can access a grass north to south ‘pathway’ to lead them to the beach where at every street end there is a beach access pathway. But in many areas the grass pathway is directly on top of the beachfront owners seawall. I present issue number 1: way too much public liability for my liking!

The next issue is whether there is a need when there is 8 lanes of traffic and multiple bike lanes only a block west; and pathway upgrades have been promised.

The next issue is central to the sustainability of the coast. We need to be thinking 100+ years down the track and unfortunately Australia’s decision-making track record isn’t very good – considering we once allowed extensive development on coastal dunes??? With sea-level rise predictions and more intense weather patterns, we need to conserve what is left of our coastal dune corridor and beaches … and not develop a pathway. As constructing the Oceanway along this narrow stretch of beach means we will have to demolish sections of the dunes, fence areas, erect light-emitting pollution and impact biodiversity.

The next issue is a moral issue. Who are we to selfishly destroy the natural values of this stretch of coast only for us to enjoy the priced horizon view while leisurely riding a bike or enjoying an easy stroll.Do we really need more ocean view infrastructure. Do we really need more concrete on our beaches?

The list could seriously go on. But, yet again who I am to say this? I live in Labrador… But I believe I can say this because I stand up for the sustainability of the coast, the wellbeing of the community and the future of Gold Coast’s beaches.

What do you stand for? The Oceanway or would you rather invest the millions of dollars that would be needed to construct the ocean pathway spent on real issues, like domestic violence, homelessness and youth suicide.

I have some simple advice. Get real, get over the Oceanway along this stretch of coastline and if you really want to protect the beach starting pulling out the weeds and support local organisations that actually do something about the state of the beach.

the green line indicates north and south grassed 'pathway' extending from Bilinga

the green line indicates the north and south grass ‘pathway’ extending from Bilinga. the dunes are very narrow.

the green line indicates north and south grass 'pathway' extending from Tugun SLSC

the green line indicates north and south grass ‘pathway’ extending from Tugun SLSC. the dunes are very narrow and here are many established native trees.

5 thoughts on “To be or not to be: the Gold Coast Oceanway

  1. Both local and state government are enlightened after the 2013 storms caused considerable damage to paths , viewing platforms and boardwalks . The state government has released fact sheets and policy in response to beach erosion stating ;

    “It is not recommended to install structures (e.g. timber or concrete) on top of the seawall. These types of structures are not designed for the forces experienced during wave action and it is likely that they will fail. The material from these structures would then be spread over the beach and pose a public safety risk . The works could also affect the stability of the seawall and therefore the protection provided to buildings.”

    The Oceanway concept is ill conceived and out of date . It’s widely known its a dead dog . The continued rallying of this outdated concept can now only be seen as vexatious and the actions of “Sore losers “.

    Lisa Martin
    Surfers Beachfront Protection Assoc.

  2. I just read your coastal tangents the first part anyway about Tugun. I am so disappointed! Thats right you don’t live here. I can see by your photos that there is a grass pathway and that putting in some concrete to increase access to everyone is viable!
    I spoke to one lady on the weekend she had a back pack on and I asked her how far she was walking? She happened to be a lovely lady and very happy to talk she was practising for a trek to Turkey! She was walking Currumbin to Coolangatta, she was very upset about not being able to stay on the beachfront and going into traffic at Tugun. So i have to say I thought you were interested in access for all- for the Oceanway! I am going to walk that path this week and see where the grassy path goes and how far it goes. You are entitled to your opinion but as an advocate for coastal care its a real pity.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. One thing we must not loss sight over is the future of Gold Coast’s coastline. Take a look at the erosion hotspots in NSW, in particular, the area CSIRO was commenting on today … that is our future on the Gold Coast. And we have already experienced this along Narrowneck and Palm Beach. Yes, we have sand on Tugun beach, a reasonable dunal corridor and a grassed pathway that is a few metres in the widest areas, but that is now. I can’t support unsustainable development along our prized beaches and I stand for a vision beyond 100 years. Plus, the legal loopholes and liability the Tugun pathway is bound by is a hot political potato. I think public money should be spent on real access like surfability wheel chairs and real beach protection staring with restoring the dunes along Tugun and Bilinga.

    • Hi Sha,

      Thanks for your comment. My vision is a long term vision and to build and invest public money into sacrificial pathways and other infrastructure is not sustainable. More concrete, crashed gravel etc. on Gold Coast’s beaches is not sustainable. The more we take the less we will have in the future. We have seen this happen along the entire Gold Coast coastline. Take a visit to Mermaid, Palm Beach and Main Beach. All beaches have been consistently eroding since May 2009 and at this stage it will only take more one storm for the Ocean Way at Main Beach to fall into the ocean.

      We need to think more creatively about beach access. The argument of no access is not warranted, as there is access as each street end and it is only 1.7km of coastline where concrete does not lessen the health and resilience of the beach.

      I acknowledge everyone’s views. My views are my own based on science, culture and history. Lets not go down the history land and instead actually protect what we have – 1.7km of potential healthy dunes.

      Naomi Edwards

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