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Hanging on to paradise

By Peter Spearritt - posted Tuesday, 23 May 2006


On a fine day from the observation tower of Q1, Surfers Paradise, still the world's tallest residential building, you can see from southern Brisbane to Byron Bay.

What a landscape. To the south, the high rises of Coolangatta and then Mt Warning, in all its world heritage glory. To the west, massive road systems cut through the landscape, linking acreage dwellers and canal home owners to the beach.

On the northern strip, high rises again, in greater concentration than anywhere else in Australia.

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In the distance Moreton Bay offers a glimpse of green, though the scar of sand mining on Stradbroke is a reminder that in this state mining always comes first.

Welcome to South-east Queensland, where the coastal landscape has been more aggressively developed and less green space has been retained than anywhere else in coastal Australia. Soon the $600 million Tugun bypass will whisk Brisbanites into the arms of another state.

And when more and more people realise that 90 per cent of the green space they see to the south of Q1 is in New South Wales, who can blame the escapees? Until the 1980s Byron Bay was a small coastal town based on dairying and a meatworks.

A cyclone in 1954 wiped out its jetty and its industries succumbed to more efficient operators elsewhere.

In a remarkable transformation, it now gets almost two million visitors a year, more than half from Queensland.

Why fight the traffic on the so-called Gold Coast highway when you can escape just as quickly to a neighbouring state which has taken coastal conservation and green space provision seriously?

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Why travel to the Sunshine Coast when you will be able to get to the Tweed Valley in the same time?

Brisbane, with its Gold and Sunshine coasts, is now set to colonise a third coastline.

And until they were sacked, the developer-dominated Tweed River Council was there to lend a hand to any developer who wanted to re-instate a sand dune, including dunes that were never there in the first place.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on May 11, 2006.



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About the Author

Professor Peter Spearritt is Executive Director of the Brisbane Institute.

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