Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate has weighed in on the Birkdale whitewater stadium plan at a senate inquiry into Australia’s preparedness to host the Commonwealth, Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Representatives from four Redland community groups aired their concerns at the hearing, telling senators they were calling for the Birkdale venue to be scrapped and Olympic canoe slalom events moved interstate to the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in western Sydney.
Cr Tate – who was quizzed on Games legacy opportunities during a wide-ranging discussion at the inquiry – said he felt sorry for future generations in Redlands who would have to “foot the bill” for the venue.
When asked whether he believed canoe slalom events should be held at the whitewater stadium in Penrith, a move that would bring the Olympics back to the Sydney 2000 venue after more than three decades, Cr Tate said “yes”.
His comments came after Community Alliance for Responsible Planning Redlands president Lavinia Wood renewed her opposition to the plan, telling senators the whitewater stadium was being “forced” on residents.
Ms Wood – who has also launched a parliamentary petition against the proposal – said spending millions on the venue was an “unforgiveable waste of public funds”.
“We want wild koalas, not a whitewater elephant,” she said.
Redlands 2030 secretary Chris Walker said community groups held concerns about the venue running at a loss.
“There is no credible evidence that a viable business case exists for a Birkdale whitewater facility,” he said.
“If it was needed, it would already be built.”
Koala Action Group president Debbie Pointing said the plan was “flawed” and did not have the community’s backing.
“The site contains some of the best koala habitat in the area and the endangered koalas that live on the site will be affected by the construction and operation of the new whitewater centre,” she said.
“Our group believes a much more sensible and acceptable solution is for the recently upgraded, fit for purpose whitewater facility in Penrith be used for the two-week Olympic Games whitewater rafting event.”
Mayor Karen Williams has repeatedly rejected suggestions the facility will become a white elephant after the Games, saying it was currently the most likely place within the Birkdale Community Precinct that council could generate revenue.
A report prepared to supplement the final BCP – which was adopted 7-4 by Redland City Council earlier this year – also defends the venue’s legacy prospects.
It says there is “well-defined need and demand” for both the whitewater centre and Redlands Resilience Training Centre, and due diligence indicates all elements “can and will operate at a breakeven or profit generating level” upon delivery.
Cr Rowanne McKenzie hit out at critics of the venue earlier this year, saying those declaring that the facility was doomed to fail lacked “entrepreneurial vision” and had been opposed to the whitewater centre from the outset.
“The Redland Whitewater Centre will be purpose designed to meet community participation needs first, before being converted to a Games competition venue thus fulfilling the sustainable policy requirements of the International Olympic Committee,” she said.
The state and federal governments have committed to fund the whitewater venue, but Redland City Council will be responsible for its ongoing maintenance.