The Queensland Government’s politically expedient decision to cancel Chinese company ASF’s proposed casino-resort on the Spit at Southport completely stunned me yesterday. In its media release, the Government offered no good reason for why it was cancelling the project. If it had a new environmental impact study that showed the casino-resort would adversely affect some endangered fauna or flora in the region, perhaps I could understand the decision. But the media release offers no such convincing explanation.
The Government is now initiating a community-led master plan, which appears to necessarily include a huge public park, which will become the Gold Coast’s “Central Park”. This would no doubt be beneficial to locals, but has the Government produced a cost-benefit analysis showing that would be a better use of the area than an alternative development? Not that I can tell.
This is a highly political decision, which, as others have noted, sends a very bad signal to investors, domestic and foreign. You might be willing to spend billions of dollars, create thousands of jobs, and be willing to endure what is already a multi-year development approval process, but, in the end, our government can just say “whatever, we’ve changed our mind” and it’s game over. (And good luck getting compensation, because the government lawyers had included a clause saying the government reserves its right not to proceed.)
The Gold Coast Bulletin has prepared an excellent timeline of the sorry saga of planned developments on the Spit, starting in 2001 when the Southport Chamber of Commerce first proposed a cruise ship terminal in the Broadwater, a proposal which was accepted by the Beattie Government in 2004, but then rejected in 2006 prior to the election. Which is similar to what has happened to the current casino-resort proposal, which for the last two years appears to have had the support of the State Government. But no longer; there is an election looming.
Tourism has been one of the real bright spots for the Queensland economy, and it is very disappointing the State Government is no longer supportive of a major development in this vitally important sector for our State.
The Spit, Gold Coast, Queensland