Media – Cableway’s baptism of fire…and water

Springbrook cableway media article

The biggest challenges for a cableway in the hinterland are fire and water. Like most things on the Gold Coast, it’s all about location. Is Springbrook really the best place?

In 2000, the CoordinatorGeneral made an assessment of the Naturelink cableway proposed by a consortium headed up by businessmen Terry Morris and Ray Stevens.

This was an ambitious $50m gondola cableway stretching more than Ilkm from Mudgeeraba to Springbrook on a moving wire system capable of carrying 120, sixperson detachable cabins. It would land at a property off Carricks Rd near the Purling Brook Falls.

The environmental impact statement suggested the Coast was poorly equipped for nature-based activities and servicing the seniors’ market. This remains true today. We need a new tourism attraction.

Nothing much has changed with the protest group, either. They now post on Facebook, opposed to the $170m Neranwood to Springbrook proposal promoted by the council.

Its key concerns back then: fire risk in the national park and state forest, contamination of the water supply in the Little Nerang and Hinze dams and the potential of Springbrook losing its World Heritage status. They’ve resurfaced, and they’re real.

If anything, the fire risk is heightened, given climate change and how eco-tourism resorts in the hinterland were wiped out in the past two years by an uncontrollable blaze.

The Coordinator-General noted that Springbrook had 10 wildfires between 1981 and 2000, including six of high intensity. During three of them, flames extended 30m above the canopy.

“In the 1994 fire, the majority of the canopy along the proposed cableway was destroyed,” the Coordinator-General said. “This fire completely burned Purling Brook Falls from ground to canopy and sections of the walking track were closed for up to 12 months.”

The report cautions that the state could face liability in terms of fire damage to cableway infrastructure, and death of a passenger or worker.

The Coordinator-General was “not satisfied the environmental effects of the proposal can be addressed adequately” and found Naturelink must not proceed.

At the same time, a World Heritage Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia report put “uncontrolled or inappropriate use of fire” at the top of its list in terms of threats followed by “inappropriate tourism infrastructure”.

The latest Springbrook pre-feasibility study addressed the “bushfire hazard”. “Locating the facility in non-bushfire prone land may not be possible,” it said.

What about a boutique cableway to Mount Tamborine instead, to Gallery Walk? Critics will question the view, claim the landscape is boring and visitors want to be in the World Heritage forest and not taken on a joy ride”.

The critical thing here is up to $500,000 of ratepayers’ money not being wasted.

A state political insider suggests the council must ensure a heads of agreement is reached with the state government before proceeding on further expensive studies, the most important showing how environmental concerns can be mitigated.

Will Labor under Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s leadership agree, given her Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon depends on the green vote in the party’s only Coast seat of Gaven? From my view, to see the great mountain view, this will continue to be a trip by car.

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