‘Come see’: Kelly Slater urged to check surf ranch site
Surfing legend Kelly Slater has been invited to have a look at what is being proposed as the State Government weighs up a $1.2 billion decision for the Coast.
The invite was offered up by a Coolum man involved in a social media exchange with the sporting icon, which left him questioning the information being provided to Mr Slater.
Local tiler Miles Livingstone sent a message on Instagram to the champion surfer, after reading a recent Courier-Mail article in which Mr Slater urged the State Government to quickly tick off the $1.2 billion wave pool project.
The project, on a 510ha site, is set to include a luxury eco-lodge, event and training facilities, tourism accommodation, retail, dining, a school, public waterways and a residential development of up to 1500 homes, along with the wave pool.
It is set to be built by Hutchinson Builders.
Mr Livingstone received a response from a verified account of Mr Slater, in which he said he'd never visited the proposed site, but had been told it had environmental assessment surveys "done and approved" before he said anything to the council.
Mr Slater said he had no money involved in the project, and the proponents were just using his name, and the technology.
The message went on to say Mr Slater wanted to do right by people, and he only shook hands with a woman on the council once a year or two ago.
He referred to numerous hotels and other building slated to happen which he believed were separate parts of a whole project.
Mr Livingstone suggested Mr Slater come to have a look at "some of the last remaining wetlands" that he said were set to make way, "so people can surf 1km away from the beach".
Mr Slater responded, in the exchange which had been shared on other social media platforms, saying he would make a site visit his priority when he was next in Australia, and thanked Mr Livingstone for the conversation and information.
The Daily has attempted to contact Mr Slater and his representatives.
When contacted by the Daily about the exchange circulating on social media, Mr Livingstone said he'd been surprised by Mr Slater's response, and urged the global star to come to visit the proposed site.
"I would love him to come out and love him to chat to Julian (Coolum product and pro surfer Julian Wilson) and see what he thinks about it," Mr Livingstone said.
Mr Livingstone said he didn't think it was an appropriate site, and said the Coast was already well and truly "on the map" for surfing, helped further by Wilson's recent world title runner-up.
Mr Livingstone said he understood the region needed jobs, but not to the detriment of the environment or community.
The project had been touted to create more than 10,000 jobs, while more than 75 per cent of the site was to be returned as public open space, through the dedication of untouched riparian wetlands, regenerated green open space and public waterways, including linking Noosa National Park to the Coolum Conservation Park and preservation of the existing tree corridor.
Associate Professor Dr Trevor Johnson, a renowned flood-specialist engineer, has been engaged by World Surf League and Consolidated Properties - proponents of the project - and he was confident the proposed surf ranch and associated development could be built to better than a one-in-100-year flood event.
World Surf League and WSL Wave Co's Asia Pacific general manager Andrew Stark said he was unsure what Mr Slater meant about hotels and other buildings being separate parts of the whole project, but said the wave pool would be in its own area within the development, away from the proposed residential sites.
Mr Stark clarified that Mr Slater had not met anyone at Sunshine Coast Council, but had met with one State Government representative more than 18 months ago to explain the wave pool technology, not the development.
"The broader development is being managed by Consolidated Properties," Mr Stark said.
Mr Stark said they were well aware the site was on a flood plain, and there were some concerns about flooding, and it was up to them to find a solution.
"If we can't, the project won't proceed and we wouldn't want it to either," he said.
Mr Stark said initial work with Professor Johnson had indicated development would be limited to no more than 25 per cent of the site.
"What we want to do next is more detailed planning and environmental assessments to make sure any concerns about flooding can be mitigated," he said.
"The wave pool has always been characterised as needing other tourism and commercial drivers to subsidise the development.
"While they will all be co-located on the site, the development will occur over a staged, 10-year period, with the wave pool being constructed first."
Mr Stark said they were encouraged by the "very high levels of support" received from the local business community and public so far.
"We've scoured the globe for a second possible location for a Kelly Slater wave pool and we want the Surf Ranch to be built on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland," he said.
"The surfing culture, the environment and proximity to the beach means Coolum is the ideal location for this development. We don't want to go anywhere else.
"The value of the project is $1.24 billion and will create 10,000 jobs over 10 years."
Mr Stark said the model would be different to the California prototype, and they had recently developed a model for the surf ranch development which would allow for "more experiences and greater accessibility".
He said the technology would produce a "wave for all skill levels", ensuring the premium Kelly Slater wave experience would be retained, but ensuring local surfers and enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of wave types.
He said a "learn-to-surf" wave, and a shorter, intermediate wave, would be added, to allow greater frequency and use.
A Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation spokesman said there had been ongoing discussions with all parties.
"The government is currently in a due diligence process to better understand the impacts and potential benefits of the development," the spokesman said.
"The project in question is still under consideration.
"A project of this size, if progressed, would undergo thorough community consultation."
WSL and Consolidated Properties had also sought a State Government Priority Development Area declaration for the site.
A council spokesman said neither the mayor, current councillors or current council staff had ever given any indication to representatives of the proposal that it was supported, or likely to gain support by council, and no indication had been given that the project had environmental approvals.
Mayor Mark Jamieson met once with WSL representatives last year, and last week a spokesman told the Daily Cr Jamieson's position remained unchanged.
"The Mayor reiterated it again with the Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation as recently as August 17, 2020," the spokesman said.
"His position is that a surf ranch would be a great addition to the tourism offer on the Sunshine Coast in the right location - and the current proposed site at Coolum West, in our Blue Heart is not the right location."
Cr Maria Suarez recently claimed the surf ranch was a "gimmick" to enable housing on low-lying, flood prone land which currently sat outside the urban footprint in the South East Queensland Regional Plan.
Her claims were rebuffed by the proponents, who said they would not go ahead with the project if flooding concerns could not be mitigated.
A joint statement from the OSCAR Inc and Sunshine Coast Environment Council in mid-August called on the State Government to refuse a Priority Development Area declaration for the proposal.
The statement raised concerns held by the groups on a range of issues, including the amount of fill required, flooding impacts and the effects on the Maroochy River.