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The Spit Master Plan for Boaties

The Spit Master Plan for Boaties

The Spit has been a contested space for a number of years, and a source of tension between community, residents, industry and business groups. After a process of consultation and engagement to encourage community solutions, The Spit Master Plan was created. This article summarises a few provisions of the master plan that we deem are of particular interest to the boating community.

The Spit Master Plan was created to establish a shared vision for the long-term future of The Spit and to guide development for decades. It is a product of the collaboration between the community, the State government (through the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning [now the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation]), the City of Gold Coast, and the Gold Coast Waterways Authority.

Former minister for DSDMIP Cameron Dick had said in a statement in Oct 2018, “For many years, the Southport Spit has been subjected to a range of development proposals that have been met with varying degrees of enthusiasm or resistance from the business sector and local community. That’s why, in 2017, the Premier announced that our government would develop a community-led master plan for The Spit, in partnership with the City of Gold Coast and the Gold Coast Waterways Authority.”

The complete consultation process included information sessions, workshops, and online surveys. In August 2017, the Queensland government announced the preparation of a master plan for the Spit to get the “balance right between protecting environmental and community values and allowing appropriate commercial, tourism and residential development.”

The City of Gold Coast was very supportive of the process. According to Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate, the area needed “a master plan and has needed one for decades, so it’s great to see so many ideas come out of the consultation so far.”

Likewise, the Gold Coast Waterways Authority (GCWA) being tasked as the facilitator of implementing the master plan, acknowledged the need for the integration in the management of the Gold Coast waterways. “One of my Board’s highest priorities is to place a greater focus on sustainable, integrated waterways management,” Mara Bun, GCWA chair, had said. “The Spit master plan is therefore about planning for the waterways as well as the land, and it’s important that we recognise the economic opportunities for all residents and visitors while sustaining environmental values well into the future.”

Beginning in early 2018 until April 2019, the consultative planning process was undertaken with the community. All the feedback became the basis of the final master plan. As declared by Queensland Premier Anastacia Palasczuk in The Spit Master Plan document, “More than 23,000 pieces of public feedback have brought about the final master plan. Almost 140 hectares of the 201 hectare area are set aside for park activities, to rival New York’s Central Park (340ha) and London’s Hyde Park (142), with open space eight times the size of Brisbane’s South Bank. Gold Coast has something the others don’t – The Broadwater and the surf.”


The master plan area comprises seven precincts: The Top of The Spit, Wave Break and Curlew Islands, Federation Walk Coastal Reserve, Muriel Henchman Park, The Village Centre, Philip Park and The Southern Gateway. While all these precincts have significant relevance to the boating community, development plans on Wave Break and Curlew Islands, the Village Centre, and the Southern Gateway may be considered as being of particular interest for boaties.

The master plan includes identifying new marina opportunities and berthing for larger vessels to enhance its capacity as the gateway to the Gold Coast. It also supports safe access to waterways with improvements to access points to The Broadwater.

Aside from infrastructure elements, the celebration of culture is integrated into all the aspects of the master plan, highlighting the need to keep alive the Aboriginal cultural heritage, maritime history, past existence of the Moondarewa township, early coastal tourism and changing landform of The Spit.


The improvements at Muriel Henchman Park are aimed at providing safe and efficient vessel launching facilities, related parking areas, a small waterside park, and a series of buildings accommodating community organisations and those who oversee the safe use of the Gold Coast’s beaches and waterways and, therefore, require direct water access.

The master plan provides for a small park to the north of the vessel-launching facility and staging area for events in the Marine Stadium, a waiting area for vessel movement and recreation activities adjacent to The Broadwater. Smaller and non-motorised vessels, such as canoes and kayaks, can be launched from a separate launching area located in the northern portion of the precinct. Spaces for storage facilities, vessel mooring and launching facilities, and administrative and meeting spaces for organisations such as Volunteer Marine Rescue and Surf Life Saving Queensland, are included.


While the Village Centre Precinct is predominantly for commercial and tourism use as a fully integrated and cohesive waterfront destination, there is a provision in the master plan to provide opportunities to celebrate the rich and dynamic maritime history of the Gold Coast, including the story of the formation of the Spit, significant maritime events such as extreme weather and shipwrecks, and the legacy of fishing, boating and surfing on the Gold Coast. There will be space for maritime remembrance and memorabilia. Further, Carters Basin shall continue to accommodate the local fishing fleet.

A new marina opportunity will include facilities for superyachts and charter boats and a potential ferry stop that has the capacity to provide alternative transport access to the Village Centre.


The master plan acknowledges that The Spit provides world-class maritime facilities that are regarded as the gateway to the Gold Coast for visiting vessels. The Broadwater will be able to welcome larger vessels such as superyachts with new berths and on-land facilities for private and charter operations. Marine facilities, including berths and moorings on The Broadwater-side of The Spit, will provide an attractive and convenient destination for these vessels.

In this context, the master plan allows for developments that:

● support the provision of additional berths for superyachts in existing marinas considering current channel width and depths

● provide opportunities for new marinas that include on-land services and facilities for superyachts

● locate an iconic tower structure that welcomes visitors to the Gold Coast as they arrive through the Seaway.

A marina will establish a strong maritime presence at the entry to the Spit and caters for ongoing high demand for vessel mooring and storage.

The Southport Yacht Club (SYC) and its related moorings establish a prevailing sense of the maritime role of the Broadwater. An area for boat storage facility shall be located along the edge of The Broadwater to the north of the yacht club building. A superyacht berthing facility shall be located along the edge of Jack Gordon Park to the west of the yacht club building to provide access for large servicing and refuelling vehicles along the edge of the berthing facility.

The Queensland Government has set aside $2 million to help deliver a superyacht berth at the yacht club to create more jobs in the rapidly growing superyacht industry. This funding is part of the government’s $60 million investment in The Spit master plan.

“The Southport Yacht Club estimates this $7.7 million superyacht berth project could see up to 25 jobs created during the construction phase, with many more created as a result of the project,” declared Cameron Dick in a statement in early 2020. “The new berth will allow the SYC to cater for more and larger boats, which opens up the Gold Coast to some of the world’s largest and most luxurious yachts.” He added that as long as the project met all approval requirements, superyachts could be docking at the facility by October 2020.

SYC general manager, Brett James, said the berth represented a huge opportunity for the Coast’s growing superyacht industry and would help change the face of tourism on the Gold Coast. “This berth will open the doors to visits from bigger and more expensive yachts which bring with them economic opportunities not just for the yacht club but for businesses across the region. More yachts mean more work for the people who service them up in Coomera, more orders for the people providing provisions to them, and more customers for restaurants, eateries and retail outlets across the Gold Coast. The SYC is already a designated customs and immigration clearance point, and this project will give international superyacht owners additional reasons to drop anchor in the Broadwater.”


These two iconic islands are identified as providing a natural retreat in the heart of The Broadwater. Wave Break Island offers low impact ecotourism opportunities that fit with and capitalise on the island’s attributes and enable visitors to understand and experience the natural processes that shape the nature and form of The Broadwater. Development plans include facilities such as toilets, picnic tables and refuse disposal at managed locations, and small-scale camping facilities restricted to one area to enable use to be appropriately managed. Day use areas to be provided at the northern and southern parts. A jetty is proposed on the southern side of Wave Break Island for ferry access.

An underwater attraction, located on the north-eastern shore of Wave Break Island, is proposed to provide a significant scuba diving and snorkelling facility for visitors, being mindful that the installation of the attraction must have minimal disturbance on the seagrass.

Curlew Island shall remain protected and managed to ensure the island’s significant environmental values.


The Gold Coast is recognised as a place that has implemented world-class coastal management practices. Marine animal rescue and research capacity will be supported with associated facilities on The Spit. The master plan includes programs to promote past achievements (such as the sand bypass system and erosion prevention programs) and enable ongoing research into nature-based systems that are resilient to the effects of natural events, while continuing to support partnerships with Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation and tertiary education institutions. As such, under the master plan, Sea World, a marine animal park including rides, animal exhibits, attractions, and marine research and rescue activities, will provide the settings for immersive experiences that expand the knowledge and appreciation of the variety of life in the ocean.


In February 2020, the Implementation of the Spit Master Plan Act 2020 was passed. Under this law, the GCWA has been tasked to facilitate the implementation of the master plan through the delivery of a program of community infrastructure of public realm works. Approval of work plans shall entail consultation with the City of Gold Coast, the Gold Coast community and other relevant agencies affected by particular projects.

As part of the implementation program, works are underway to implement the upgrade to Moondarewa Spit and the Seaway Promenade to create world-class facilities. “We’re investing more than $5 million in the Moondarewa Spit upgrade and the Seaway Promenade to create world-class facilities for Gold Coast locals and visitors to enjoy,” Cameron Dick announced in January 2020. “The design work and construction on these projects alone are expected to generate at least 16 jobs, with more to come in the future as these facilities attract more people to The Spit precinct.”

The Spit Master Plan was created to confirm the significant value of The Spit, not only for its land, but also for the unique waterways that surround it. The boating community has a significant role to play in ensuring that the implementation of the developments and plans are in line with the master plan and promote the needs of the community and the environment.

The Spit Master Plan 2019
Implementation of the Spit Master Plan Act 2020

Compiled by Roselle Tenefrancia

Published in the August – November 2020 print edition.