Queensland gets serious about protecting surfing reserves
If anyone doubted the seriousness of intent when Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced last month that her government would investigate a legislative framework to protect World Surfing Reserves, (and I plead guilty, Your Honour) that has been laid to rest by the caliber of invitees expected to attend today’s first “Round Table Discussion – Protecting Surfing Reserves” on the Gold Coast.
Of course, the vital Currumbin by-election is only weeks away, with Labor candidate Kaylee Campradt’s chances, described by one Labor source as “like climbing Everest”, firmly pinned to the Premier’s protection initiative, which includes surf breaks literally in her backyard. But, pork-barrelling and cynicism aside, on Tuesday, February 11, Sports Minister Mick de Brenni and Candidate Kaylee at her side, Palaszczuk promised a stakeholders meeting to begin formulating policy in March, and four days in, here it is.
Although several National Surfing Reserves – notably Bondi - have claimed some sort of legislative protection through various heritage listings and provisions over the years, the Queensland initiative is the first serious attempt to legislate for protection of surf breaks and their surroundings since the Victorian government gazetted the Bells Beach Surfing and Recreation Reserve in 1971.
While there is some irony in the fact that the momentum for this initiative has come from the home turf of Mayor Tom Tate, whose giant marina proposals have echoed the glory years of Queensland’s White Shoe Brigade under Jo Bjelke-Petersen, there can be no denying that Palaszczuk and de Brenni mean business.
In addition to the usual suspects representing stakeholder groups within and near to surfing itself, plus councils for the Gold Coast, Noosa and First Nations, and the two Queensland World Surfing Reserves, no fewer than six State Government departments will be represented by their top mandarins, with Sports Minister de Brenni chairing and Liza Carroll, Director-General of the Department of Housing and Public Works facilitating. That’s some serious fire power.
The thrust of this first meeting will be fact-finding, but de Brenni and his staff have already begun looking at other legislative models. The pioneering model of Bells Beach will be presented by Surf Coast CEO Keith Baillie and Councillor David Bell, but perhaps of more relevance will be New Zealand’s more recent Coastal Management Plan and Marine Zone legislation, presented by marine consultant Ed Atkin and environmental scientist Dr Shaw Mead.
As for the Queensland World Surfing Reserves themselves, Gold Coast chair Andrew McKinnon was thinking softly, softly when I spoke to him early week. “Let’s see what’s on offer, and focus first and foremost on the protection of surf breaks.”
Can’t argue with that. Could be exciting times ahead.
// PHIL JARRATT
NOTE: The author is president of the local stewardship council of Noosa World Surfing reserve.