Monday, 24 September 2012

Please Don't Ruin Our Seaway and Spit

Me on yesterday's dive in the Gold Coast Seaway surrounded by Bigeye Trevally. Photo: Ian Banks
By Ryan Pearson
What an amazing place the Gold Coast Spit and Seaway is! This weekend I was down there early Saturday morning to help shoot a documentary on the area, and then on Sunday afternoon I was back for a cheeky little afternoon dive (partly to help wash away a hint of a hangover, but that's beside the point). Both were very successful days, and the Spit was buzzing with both life and leisure on both visits... how could the Gold Coast possibly do without this amazing area? And why should we have to?

On Saturday morning, a group of us were filming the opening scene to a documentary that we're hoping will raise awareness of the amazing ecosystem that exists below the water in the seaway. This is a thriving ecosystem that is currently under threat because of the proposed cruise ship terminal that Cr. Tom Tate wants to put in its place. And it's not the only thing under threat by the proposal.

What we saw down there on Saturday morning was the amazingly diverse range of uses that the Spit and the Seaway provides for us Gold Coasters. In a single frame of video, we managed to capture about 15 fishing boats, jet-skiers, kayakers, surfers jumping in the water to get over to The Other Side (TOS), and three powered parachuters who had taken off from the parklands on the Spit to fly over South Stradbroke Island. Now, this was at low tide, at high tide we would have also seen anywhere up to 100 divers entering and exiting the water in the same shot. Outside of this frame were also swimmers, fisherman on the wall, morning walkers, picnicers, dogs running and playing, people just there to 'have a look', and about a dozen different species of seabirds flying and hunting.

The entry point for divers and surfers in the Gold Coast Seaway. Photo: Ryan Pearson
Which of these activities will be possible if a cruise ship terminal were to be built here? My guess is none. Given that cruise ships operate internationally, the security around such a terminal would likely be on par with an international airport. This would prevent anyone without a boarding pass accessing a lot of the area. Furthermore, with a cruise ship in port, for 'safety' reasons, the seaway could be closed for up to 6 hours at a time - how safe do you think that is for the boats that travel in and out of the seaway each day? Imagine you're out fishing offshore when a cruise ship comes in. Imagine the swell picks up to dangerous levels while you're out there and you're prevented from bringing your boat in for 6 hours at a time... uh oh. Now, the council may have thought of this, and may have a plan to deal with such situations... but even if they do, that's another cost that hasn't really been talked about in a project that already sounds like it's going to cost much more than it generates for our economy.

Speaking of costs extra costs... the Spit was so popular yesterday (Sunday), that the traffic build up in the afternoon meant it took me 45 minutes just to travel the couple of kilometres to get off the Spit and onto the Gold Coast Highway. If a cruise ship terminal was to bring in as much business as Cr Tate suggests, I'd imagine the traffic will be just as bad (if not worse) with the arrival/departure of every boat. I don't imagine the tourists would particularly enjoy wasting half of their only day in our fine city sitting in traffic. Looks like we'll need to fork out for road upgrades too. Oops, there's another impact on cost and environment.

And since I just mentioned the environment... here are a few of the pics I snapped on yesterdays dive.
The gills of a very large fish rolling in the sand. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Fanbelly Leatherjacket eye. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Horned Blenny. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Horned Blenny. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Horned Blenny. Photo: Ryan Pearson

A scorpionfish says hello on the sand pipe. Photo: Ryan Pearson

The remains of a very large fish being feasted on by hundreds of fish. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Hawkfish. Photo: Ryan Pearson
On top of these guys, the Seaway is home to over 500 documented marine species, including some particularly endangered and rare species. As you can see from Ian Banks' photo (top of page), they can be quite numerous. In fact, as far as I know, this is the only shore dive in Australia where you can see this abundance of life 365 days a year. Furthermore, the area is a known resting and breeding place for some endangered migratory bird species forming a vital link in their migratory patterns which, if removed, could have devestating effects on their long term survival patterns.

I don't want to lose this amazing area... do you?