Almost half of Gold Coast residents want Southport Spit protected

Gold Coast residents are largely opposed to development plans at the Southport Spit, preferring instead to conserve the historically green and open space for continued public use.

The public sentiment was discovered through a newly published Griffith University research project designed specifically to gauge community preferences for the site’s development.

The project, undertaken by Griffith Business School Honours student Victoria Graham, follows the State Government’s 2017 commitment to a community-led master plan to provide a guide for the Spit’s future.

The survey, which was conducted online, compiled responses from 345 residents spatially stratified by postcode across the Gold Coast.

As part of the survey, participants were asked about their preferences in terms of the focus of development (cruise ship terminal, casino, both or neither), the height of future developments (low-, medium- or high-rise), how much of the space should be developed, and whether current rates charges for open space preservation should be maintained or reduced.

Of the respondents, about 45 per cent — or 158 individuals — revealed a strong preference for not delivering any changes to the Spit and leaving it in its current condition.

Conversely, about 33 per cent (120 respondents) were deemed to be ‘pro-development’, while 22 per cent (67 respondents) expressed mixed preferences over the future development of the Spit, comprising the ‘middle ground’.

“The largest single group of respondents were found to be firmly against the idea of developing either a cruise ship terminal or a casino,” Miss Graham said. “Obviously, those proposals are not uniformly opposed, particularly in the case of a cruise ship terminal, which was viewed positively by the pro-development and middle-ground segments.

“However, there was much less community support for the construction of a casino, which was only buoyed by pro-development sentiment. Similarly, it is only the pro-development segment who believes the current three-storey limit should be lifted to allow for medium-rise structures.”

On the other hand, Miss Graham says, the pro-conservation segment stands alone when it comes to concern about the extent of developed space, being opposed to any increase of the existing available footprint. Neither the pro-development nor middle-ground segments held a significant preference.

According to the researchers, the grand majority of respondents (86 per cent) indicated they were Australian, with 14 per cent nominating another nationality. Less than 16 per cent of respondents have lived on the Gold Coast for fewer than five years, with 71 per cent having lived in the region for more than 11 years.