Oceanside Cruise Ship Terminal not feasible as “port ‘o call” (transit port); a clarification.

The public would be aware, based on recent reports from the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA), that a significant number of complaints have been made since the OIA was established.

Recently a person made a complaint about my conduct as a Councillor, claiming that I had misled the public when making statements that were ultimately published in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail in June 2019.

The OIA has now informed me they will take no further action regarding this complaint.

However, based on the information provided in the OIA correspondence to me, I am of the view it is in the public interest to follow their implied request and clarify my position. Accordingly, the following outlines the specifics of the matter.

On the 6th August 2019, the OIA wrote to me and in their letter they made the following statements about quotes attributed to me that were published in the Courier-Mail on 26 June 2019;

“[your comments] would have benefited from providing clarity that the business case for both home and transit ports were considered in conjunction with one another when discussed at council.”

OIA, 6 August 2019

The quotes published that they referred to, attributed to me, were;

1. That the proposed cruise ship terminal has a $500 million price tag

2. The council report by PwC indicates a transit port would not be economically feasible or recommended

3. That economic consultants are advising the city against a transit port at the Spit

In reference to these quotes the OIA stated;

“…The three statements listed were factually correct on the basis that they refer to a ‘Transit’ port. These statements would not be correct if referring to a ‘Home’ port.” [my emphasis]

OIA, 6 August 2019

For the purpose of this clarification the following is submitted; on 15 March 2017 the City of Gold Coast made a submission pursuant to the EPBC Act, which is publicly available. That submission makes reference to a home port servicing up to 150 ships per annum. You can find that submission here.

In May 2017, the council considered a confidential report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and an accompanying council agenda item, that I am informed cannot be discussed transparently in the public interest due its confidentiality. A redacted version is available.

However, for clarity and to meet the implied obligations of the letter the OIA sent to me, I can confirm the council report by PwC considered by Council in May 2017 does makes favourable recommendations about economic feasibility of a home port over a 30 year period, coming at a significant net cost to Council over that period in all but one published model, and relying on the servicing of more ships than the publicly available and non-confidential EPBC submission references (that is, more than 150 per annum). The PwC report also does not consider fuel supply and it is my personal view that a reasonable person would determine that the forecasts included are unrealistic. Some of the commentary about this matter was articulated in this council meeting, the live stream for which you can review. There is more information on this but it is regrettably considered confidential. It is my personal view that a reasonable person properly informed reading it would consider the model unrealistic.

Reasonable questions posed to me by members of the public include; “Why did Council’s EPBC submission note 150 ships per annum in March 2017, and then the PwC report in May 2017, both overseen by the same Council department, address feasibility models exceeding that?” and “Could it be that the PwC report scope was changed so that feasibility could be made more favourable?” and “Was the objective of the PwC report a favourable economic feasibility recommendation, or rather was the PwC report seeking a prudent assessment of project risk and economic variables, compared to alternatives?” I do not know the answers to these questions.

It is also my personal view that these above statements adequately clarify, in the public interest, my statements relating to an unfeasible transit port, and the necessary but not costed variables of an “economically feasible” home port. I do not know how economic feasibility of home port can be determined without a comprehensive assessment and cost estimate for fuel supply, accurate and reasonable forecasting, and a costed infrastructure solution for ferrying the passengers to shore included in the forecasts.

The PwC report suggests a home port may be economically feasible despite these components omitted, not costed, or (in my view) insufficiently explored. I respectfully consider this unreasonable. Accordingly, I have been voting against further ratepayers funds being allocated to this project.

You can read the full report to Council, including the PwC report, with redacted components here.

Frankly, my personal position remains that much better investment options with greater community and economic benefit should be the priority of the City of Gold Coast, at this time, both for our own investment and that of commercial interests who may wish to bring their business to our city.

Some of these ideas that would be a better collective use of incoming prospective commercial investment of comparable magnitude, or public investment by council or the state government, include but may not be limited to;

  1. Expansion of the Gold Coast Convention Centre
  2. Connection of Light Rail to the Gold Coast Airport AND along western routes connecting Metricon Stadium, CBus Stadium, & Robina (shopping, university, hospital)
  3. Connection of Heavy Rail to the Gold Coast Airport and the NSW marketplace
  4. A Gold Coast Science and Technology Centre
  5. A Centre for Energy Science (modelled on the Institute for Glycomics)
  6. Augmentation of Waste Management & Sustainability projects (such as Rocky Point and similar)
  7. Augmentation of the Gold Coast Botanic Gardens to lift its standard to world-class
  8. A world-class Gold Coast Equestrian facility (non-racing disciplines)

The combined economic and social impact of a suitable collection of these at the magnitude of investment proposed for the OCST would exceed the benefit outlined in the PwC report, when the risks and reasonable constraints are considered, in my personal view.

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