Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The headline in the Gold Coast Bulletin declared: City leaders banking on tourist info centre to boost Gold Coast Hinterland visitor numbers: see report below.

Why is a ‘tourist information centre’ at Wunburra Lookout on Springbrook going to ‘boost numbers in the Hinterland’? Will it be the ‘plush toys, arts and craft and local foods’ that will draw the crowds in? Why would the national park, the World Heritage-listed National Park, not be the drawcard, itself a sufficient attraction? Is the aim merely to get tourists to visit and spend their money on some trinket, toy, or an arty craft piece while enjoying a snack or a meal on a day out; or is it to promote World Heritage values? Gosh, the visitors would not have to travel any further along the plateau than the end of the one-way track at Wunburra to enjoy these attractive ‘whiz-bang’ facilities! The aim seems to be to flippantly and compliantly cater for the classic tourist who has no interest in anything but entertainment, games and unusual distractions: see -

The prediction that an information centre ‘would inject $34.8 million into the local economy’ seems ambitious. $34.8 million is a lot of money: but what time scale is this prediction based on? Is it one year or one hundred years? The statistic looks like a red herring as it appears to be meaningless, merely a big, impressive number used in the same manner as the ‘Sydney Opera House’ is used to define the qualities of any proposed attraction that seeks some persuasive ‘iconic’ characteristic: see - and  Is the figure just something added to impress in order to promote the idea, to make it more agreeable?

How many more people does Springbrook need? How many more would this centre encourage to visit the region? If the $34.8 million is based on a period of one year, then, if every person spends $50.00 each visit on toys, craft or ‘local foods’ - what foods are local? . . . indeed, what crafts are local? – then an extra 1900 people a day, every day of the year, will have to visit the region.* This is a massive increase in numbers for a very fragmented area that is so environmentally sensitive. The question needs to be asked: what is the carrying capacity of Springbrook? What are the numbers of visitors that the World Heritage area can cope with and still maintain the integrity of its rich environmental diversity for which it is listed? Independent research needs to be undertaken in order to have this question answered. Guessing and hoping, or just ignoring the issue, are not good enough.

Strangely, the predicted dollars are big but the site is tiny. This proposed information centre that is ‘to boost’ the Gold Coast Hinterland is going to be developed in an area reported to be 323 square metres. What size is this building? How many vehicles are to be accommodated in this precinct that has such a restricted space, but is still expected to attract possibly 1900 extra visitors a day? Who knows what number is expected? If the dollar prediction were based on a period of ten years, there would be an extra 190 people a day, every day, spending $50 each. Ten cars – it seems to be a reasonable number -  take about 250 square metres plus general access space. One might guess that a bus parking space would be provided too, maybe two. So what area is left for a building? Or, to look at it another way, with a building providing what one might guess to be an adequate general display area, an information counter, a shop, a cafĂ© and amenities all as the report suggests, what space might be left for any vehicles to stop?

The figures look alarming dodgy, irrational. The prediction of millions of dollars coming in with an information centre that has no car parking, or with a car park serving only a miniscule information centre, appears strangely askew. Is this promotion all part of an ambitious dream promoted by a ‘snake oil’ salesman? Has anyone thought seriously about this place? The report carries images of Natural Bridge. While this natural rock arch is in a remote fragment of Springbrook National Park, it is not at Springbrook or anywhere near Wunburra. What is the aim for this information centre? What is the rationale? Is it merely political hype?

More than ever, the muddling confusion seems to point to the need for such a place to be located at Nerang, so that the World Heritage region can be promoted at a place away from the sensitivities of the World Heritage area, near the busy tourist highways in a place that can provide adequate areas for the information centre and its required parking: see –

Is this proposal just an ad hoc ‘Council promo’ that gathers every clichĂ© seen at information centres around the world – ‘open seven days a week, provide free Wi-Fi, sell merchandise, food and drink and provide audiovisual and digital technology interaction’? What is the scale of this operation that is described like an arcade game and amusement centre? Why on earth would anyone want to encourage those interested in participating in these entertainments into World Heritage areas? Keep the tourist attractions and distractions on the Gold Coast tourist strip, near the much-loved tourist attractions of Dreamworld, Movie World, Wet’n’Wild and Sea World. Tourists adore convenience and ‘whiz-bang’ effects. One ticket could do all! Nerang is an ideal place as it is the location from which those truly interested in seeing and caring for World Heritage areas can access them, both on the Springbrook Plateau and at Natural Bridge in the Numinbah Valley. Nerang also fits in between, near all of the other tourist attractions that the Gold Coast is promoted for. World Heritage 'attractions' must never become a part of this list.

Are Councillors seeking to create monuments for their own glory? Why do ill-considered ideas like this arise? Why do silly, vague, endorsing reports like this get published? Governments do have an obligation to properly manage World Heritage regions. Promoting such apparently poorly thought out ideas as this Wunburra  ‘information centre’ will do little to enhance place or identity – or profit. Clear rigorous thinking and feeling is needed if World Heritage place is to be enriched. Jumping on the bandwagon of tourism delights in a World Heritage location is unlikely do anything for anyone, not even Councillors, especially so if the facts appear to make the whole vision look like a careless farce.

Oh, no! Surely not! Will this be a multistorey development? Cars below, entertainment levels above? Will this be Springbrook’s first escalator? Maybe a lift? Oh, no! One can see it already: a glass enclosed lift for tourists to enjoy the trees, as they would expect. No. World Heritage principles must always be the core of everything that might happen on Springbrook: not tourism.

The ambiguity in the report allows for many interpretations. The ‘$34.8 million into the local economy’ statement can mean anything. By way of example, the figures here interpret ‘local’ to mean Springbrook: but what is ‘local’? – see:  The whole matter is vague, uncertain and indistinct, allowing any explanation to make sense – just as politicians like it.


City leaders banking on tourist info centre to boost Gold Coast Hinterland visitor numbers
JULY 27, 2015 10:51AM

     The Natural bridge, Springbrook National Park. Picture: JERAD WILLIAMS

City leaders are banking on a tourist information centre to be built at Springbrook in a bid to boost numbers to the Hinterland.

In the wake of the Skyride cable car plan being put on hold by its backers, the Gold Coast City Council is investigating building a $1.1 million centre. It is thought a permanent information centre, also selling plush toys, arts and craft and local foods, would inject $34.8 million into the local economy.

The centre is earmarked for a site at Wunburra Lookout covering about 323sq m.

Area councillor Glenn Tozer said an upgrade of nearby intersections would be needed if the facility was built at the lookout.

“The ratio of overseas visitors coming here is higher than the rest of the Coast and someone not from here is more interested in the Hinterland experience,” he said.

“So ... it is important we get this right but we want to work with the state to get the best location and make sure it is aligned with other facilities.”

Council documents to the Economic Development committee said the area needed a proper tourist facility.

“It must ... open seven days a week, provide free Wi-Fi, sell merchandise, food and drink and provide audiovisual and digital technology interaction.”

     Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park. Picture: JERAD WILLIAMS

Monday, July 13, 2015


The Sunland $600 million proposal to develop Mariner’s Cove on The Spit at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia has been commented on previously – see:  The scheme that now seems to be two high-rise residential towers with some gallery and museum areas below - what happened to the hotel: will it come later as part of a ‘wedge’ development? - has been promoted as ‘a cultural precinct to rival the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao in Spain,’ the dramatic project designed by Frank O. Gehry that has stirred the world with its commercial success.

Now the latest report on the Mariner’s Cove development draws parallels to the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower: Soheil, he said ‘I am 66 years old and want to create something like the Sydney Opera House or Eiffel Tower’. Is this a way of trying to say that the scheme seeks to be ‘iconic,’ special in a unique way similar to other loved places? Is it a way of trying to get a high-rise development approved in an area that has a height restriction of three floors?

The report notes that: The developer . . . has launched a charm offensive to win over city councillors. That ‘charm’ is now apparently being used to get the scheme approved is a real concern. The intent is transparent:
Sunland bosses, led by executive chairman Soheil Abedian have begun meeting city leaders in a bid to secure the necessary votes to gain the project approval when it goes before the city planning committee in coming months.

Exactly what is happening? The Gold Coast already has a problem with approving ‘feel-good’ projects that it really knows so little about: see - That this extreme project is being promoted in this ‘iconic’ manner is a problem. Surely the process is for the developer to place all of his information on the table and then let the scheme be assessed against the planning rules and regulations, with an understanding of its impacts in every detail. Feeling good about the potential of a ‘maybe’ Bilbao-Guggenhiem outcome; or perhaps a Sydney Opera House experience; or a possible Eiffel Tower draw card on the Gold Coast is not good enough. This is the stuff of pure fantasy: if only we had these, all three! Wow!! Why? The irony is that the Gold Coast seems unable to care for its current World Heritage listed region at Springbrook. Why should it try to emulate another? Both the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower have been listed as World Heritage sites. Springbrook, in the Gold Coast hinterland, has been listed as part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia: see -  It would be strange if matters 'World Heritage' might convince Councillors that the development of The Spit in this manner was worthwhile.

But is this project really ‘something like the Sydney Opera House or Eiffel Tower’? The buildings are big, but what else is there? It has been argued that the scheme is nothing like the Guggenheim in Bilbao other than it apparently seeks to be different: see -  Likewise it is no Sydney Opera House or Eiffel Tower, other than perhaps being ‘eye-catching.’ Both of these World Heritage projects engage with place in a structured manner, with buildings that have a civic intent. They are not commercial residential centres that accommodate ordinary, everyday comings and goings. They have earned their reputation over time because of their special characteristics that have to do with the rigour of ideas and their accomplishment. They have a special spirit, integrity and objective that are different to those of a commercial high-rise residential tower development. No additional ‘cultural’ component in the residential project’s plaza can create this World Heritage ambiance even though the words that describe the idea might suggest similarities.

Blues Point Tower

It would have made more sense to have likened the Mariner’s Cove project to Harry Seidler’s Blues Point Tower residential scheme in Sydney, but this development has had its critics and is not as universally acclaimed as the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower. The Seidler project has only a local heritage listing, so lacks the impressive emotional qualities of the World Heritage sites in Sydney and Paris.

Why are such analogies sought to promote what can be seen as a contentious project? It seems that the links might be trying to add some poignant richness to the development application; that these parallels might be an attempt to give some ‘charm,’ some exotic 'prestige' to the idea that could convince others that the project was highly desirable in spite of its not complying with the planning scheme. Councillors seem to have become involved in these ‘feel-good’ approvals before: see -

If a city is to become anything, it should become itself. It can only achieve this quality outcome with quality decisions made on the basis of quality city plans, not whimsy. Without such a strategy, cities become just an ad hoc shambles of developers’ ambitions that seem to get approved in the vague haze of hope. We can already see the poor results of this system of development approvals. Why is it that we still accept the ‘charm offensive’ approach in such silence? It is truly offensive to have a city managed in such a manner. We need to explore and expose our own genius loci – our own spirit of place and its unique importance rather than try to build places to be ‘world class’ or even ‘World Heritage,’ whatever this might mean.



Fate of $600m Sunland project in the hands of councillors as backers launch charm offensive

JULY 14, 2015 12:00AM

   Sunland unveils proposal for $600 m residential and cultural precinct at Mariner’s Cove.

THE developer behind the $600 million plans to redevelop the Mariner’s Cove site has launched a charm offensive to win over city councillors.
Sunland bosses, led by executive chairman Soheil Abedian have begun meeting city leaders in a bid to secure the necessary votes to gain the project approval when it goes before the city planning committee in coming months.

The Bulletin understands some councillors hold concerns about the 44-storey twin towers which, if approved, would defy the existing three-level height limit now in place.  

Artist’s impression of proposed $600m Sunland’s residential and cultural precinct at Mariner’s Cove.

 Despite these fears, it is expected a majority of councillors will vote in support of the development, which will including a world-class private cultural precinct, 370 apartments and 69-suite boutique hotel.
Pro-development Broadbeach councillor Paul Taylor met Dr Abedian last week and was impressed by what he saw.
“I think it looks fabulous and personally I would back it all the way because it would be an icon and landmark for the city,” he said. “There is a concern about the height of the towers and how this will work out but when I spoke to Soheil, he said ‘I am 66 years old and want to create something like the Sydney Opera House or Eiffel Tower’.
“We will give it full consideration when it goes before the committee but it has my vote.”
Sunland filed a development application with the Gold Coast City Council six weeks ago after years of planning. It is one of two major developments earmarked for the area, with Chinese billionaire Tony Fung also announcing plans for a casino and integrated resort at the Sheraton Mirage.
It is understood that ASF Consortium has also eyed off land at the southern end of The Spit for its casino project.
While Mr Fung’s project would likely require a State Government “call-in”, the Sunland project will be in council’s hands. Area councillor Lex Bell met company representatives last week and said he would be guided by constituents.