Sunday's Big Paddle Out to Save Kirra event went from demonstration to massive celebration after Queensland's government turned down the proposed cruise ship terminal last week. Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson lead the charge, and were among more than 2,500 people that flooded the beach to preserve their break.
Last week, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman squashed plans for the proposed cruise ship terminal that would've ruined the beloved break. Newman told the Gold Coast Bulletin, “While we always welcome new ideas about how to grow the state, we will simply never entertain the idea of a cruise ship terminal at Kirra Beach."
While this is cause for celebration among Kirra supporters and event organizers, Save Our Southern Beaches Alliance (SOSBA) urged that further actions must be taken. Because of Newman's state-level authority, Kirra supporters worried that unless federal action is taken to preserve the 23-mile stretch between south Stradbroke and Coolangatta, the beaches were still in jeopardy.
Their concerns were valid. The terminal triumph was quickly followed by another push to develop the area. In the days between Newman's announcement and the rally, a massive resort/casino proposal at neighboring Bilinga was presented, transforming the paddle-out from a celebration back to a demonstration. Jim Wilson, SOSBA Chair, compared the proposal to a "land-grab" and encouraged everyone to make their opinions known.
Demonstration day saw thousands of people, families, and surfers show up. Some toted signs emblazoned with bold words and anti-development slogans. Others brought their boards and were ready to sit-in. As if to prove a point, the Kirra paddle-out itself was canceled due to pumping swell deemed too big for attendees. Though that did little to curb the enthusiasm.
Instead, participants were asked to spell out W.S.R.--for "world surfing reserve"--on the sand to be visible from the air. They want the area to be a confirmed world surfing reserve so that it is preserved once and for all. If confirmed, Kirra and Southern Gold Coast would join the club with spots like Malibu and Santa Cruz as well as distinguished beaches in Peru and Portugal. SOSBA and Kirra supporters want the same long-standing protection.
The next day, it seemed the efforts had paid off. Newman made another public statement in support of keeping development from public beaches, and said that he "would not be interested in a proposal for a casino on public land on the beach on any part of the Gold Coast...If someone has a block of private land they are within their rights to make any sort of proposal.”
The battles have been won, said Wilson, but until the safety of the beaches is in permanent writing, the war is far from over.