Gold Coast’s mayor denies his council’s decision to green-light a bar on a beach is un-Australian or sets a precedent that could see public space privatized.
Broadbeach’s Kurrawa Beach Club, given the go-ahead on a trial basis late last year, will now be allowed to open for six months every year for the next three years.
Wildlife Queensland’s Gold Coast and Hinterland branch president, Sally Spain, told ABC the decision opened a “Pandora’s box” and was the “slippery path downwards for shops on the beach”.
“The Australian icon of our free and open, non-paying, non-excluding beaches has been breached,” she said.
But the mayor, Tom Tate, said a precedent had already been set, pointing to other beaches around Australia that host similar facilities.
Among those is the country’s first licensed beach club, Moseley, which is spread across 750 sq meters of sand near Adelaide’s landmark Glenelg Pier, and the Exchange Beach Club in Port Melbourne.
Other beach clubs have run into stiff community resistance. The proposed Amalfi Beach Club on Bondi Beach was derailed by fierce local opposition, with high-profile voices such as Lucy Turnbull and TV chef Adam Liaw among its critics.
Turnbull said the club would set a precedent “for the privatization of public space”. At the same time, the New South Wales planning minister Rob Stokes described it as “elitist and un-Australian”, prompting the bar’s proponent to sue him for defamation.
Tate said such hostile sentiment was not felt in the heart of the Gold Coast.
“The initial trial, and associated community survey, showed that most people supported the trial and concept,” he said.
“The footprint of the beach bar is around 750 sq meters. We have 55km of ocean beaches, so I am confident it does not restrict people from enjoying our coastline.”
The mayor said the club’s previous trial period was affected by Covid restrictions and adverse weather. Starting in late 2022, the three-year trial would “ensure we obtain the best possible data from relevant surveys and community consultation”.
Greens senator Larissa Waters said the Kurrawa proposal should not “pave the way for privatization of public beaches across the state.”
“Queensland’s spectacular beaches should be open for everyone to enjoy rather than auctioned off to the highest bidder,” Waters said.
“The trial must make sure that impacts on amenity and local wildlife are monitored and council steps in if the community’s enjoyment of the beach is being compromised.”
The venue is free to enter, although booking one of eight VIP cabanas costs a minimum of $400 for two-and-a-half hours, Friday to Sunday.
The beach club is run by Australian Venue Co, which operates over 180 venues around Australia. The company referred questions to the Gold Coast council.