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.

Fireworks cracking

(photo source: valencia.com)

(photo source: valencia.com)

Fireworks cracking, exploding with unexpected shimmers of multicoloured glitter explain my excitement and passion for life – at this very moment. So much to do and it seems so little time. Although, there is much to experience, engage and explore my dear friend.

Knowing your direction in life seems to be a luxury for some. For someone who is driven, focused and determined I feel lucky to have found my thing – what ticks me, what excites me and what drives me. Hands down it’s the coast, advocacy and the community.

Being a passionate advocate for the coast and sharing the community’s vision for a better Gold Coast is the best job anyone of my calibre could embrace. Seriously.

I am surrounded by people, community groups and organisations who are consistently contributing to creating a better Gold Coast. Today was a great example of the experiences I share, which are now cherished memories forever engraved as a moment in time – Greenmount’s early 1990s sand fan wave sounded epic! There was also the permaculture workshop at the Mermaid Beach Multicultural Garden, BeachCare’s BBQ, Responsible Runners #enforcetheban campaign planning, made a breakthrough for a more trees on dunes story, smoothie time with friends, then there were many lattes and an engagement party where I caught up with some coastal colleagues.

The coast is a magnet. The coast connects the land and the sea, people and experiences, memories and time.

My tangents are a collection of the connections I see and make and such thoughts are only my thoughts and are only about thoughts thought of during such times. In the past week the nature of the content on my blog was brought to my attention – again. But hey, my blog connects the coast, advocacy and the community interwoven with passion and excitement to create change.

And I created change this week. The City of Gold Coast are reviewing their peel back process they ‘have’ to do to assess the seawalls, though, specifically review the transplanting process of the native dune plants [“if they do”, said one of the managers]. And they will also be looking into improving their communication and onsite signage to “properly” inform the community and visitors alike.

More fireworks to crack next week – for the coast, advocacy and the community.

Hope you are having an awesome weekend.

Stay dune alert

Destroyed dune near Cable Street, Main Beach

Destroyed dune near Cable Street, Main Beach

Narrowneck Beach

Narrowneck Beach

Scars along the glitter strip

Scars along the glitter strip

There I was enjoying a leisurely walk with Elle (my dog) along Main Beach to Surfers Paradise this afternoon. It was leisurely until I came across a demolished dune, a bulldozer and truck, and a pile of sand with native dune plants, cut down trees and fencing debris waiting for the tip. Only hours after proclaiming how amazing those who manage Gold Coast’s beaches are and sharing news on some cool projects on the horizon to inspire all 2700 beachfront residents and the hundreds of thousands of locals who also enjoy Gold Coast’s beaches everyday to take care of Gold Coast’s beaches.

How short sighted and I am talking about those making decisions on how to manage the beaches, which to me all I can see is destruction. All in the name of progress while they assess the stability of the seawalls for the Seawall Construction Project.Yet, despite efforts to communicate with the community with a more centralised effort there doesn’t appear to be any further information about this project (specifically the Cable Street – Ferny Avenue project). This bleeds suspicion as the Engineering Services Report for this project was presented in a closed session (why not a public report??).

Please remind me on how the City of Gold Coast could promote that the beaches are fit of summer?

Believe me, there is still a long way to go until such a statement can be made as I agree with experienced surfer Phil Hoile, who has documented the erosion around Main Beach and said it was important to understand some sand had returned but the dunes remained exposed (source: Gold Coast Bulletin).

If the dunes are still exposed along the northern beaches who the hell makes decisions to go ahead and destroy more dunes? The last time I checked we were in 2014 and had all the latest technology available to carry out best coastal management practices on the Gold Coast. Meaning, surely dunes don’t need to be destroyed to assess the stability of a seawall.

The dunes are there for a reason – to protect the seawall which protects the development (plus more of course – I’m not that short sighted).

Stay dune alert.