$24M Mackay wave pool project: The big reveal
"GET barrelled behind the Great Barrier Reef" is how Mackay councillor Ross Gee describes his dream of getting a wave pool to this region.
And his idea to create a multi-million dollar wave making machine might not be as much of a pipe-dream as it sounds; most of his colleagues were for Cr Gees' idea at a private council briefing this week.
His plan would lure a wave pool-making company to Mackay to build a $24million surf park, only the fifth in the world, that pumps out 2000 barrelling 3m waves every hour.
He believed this pool would make Mackay "Australia's all-rounder", another one of his slogans, as the region would have the Great Barrier Reef, National Parks with kangaroos, heritage buildings and surfing - the top five leisure activities international tourists do in Australia.
As for domestic tourists the top five leisure activities are swimming and surfing, fishing and boating, bush activities and visiting national parks.
It was after seeing that information that Cr Gee came up with the idea that Mackay needed a wave pool to draw the 244,000 international tourists that visit Airlie Beach each year to Mackay where only 44,000 currently visit.
Mr Gee has been working on the concept since May, speaking with Mayor Greg Williamson, Tourism Minister Kate Jones, Treasurer Curtis Pitt, Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert and wave pool developers Greg Webber and the Kelly Slater Wave Co.
Despite his eagerness, the energetic surfer has managed to all-but keep the project under wraps until the council's feasibility report was presented to councillors.
Now the report is out Cr Gee is happy for the concept to be revealed with possible locations near Binnington Esplanade or behind Mackay Memorial Swimming Pool.
"I have had interest from international wave building companies but have held back until the case study is done and I have more information to give to them," he told The Daily Mercury.
"I have had contact with contact with Kelly Slater Wave Co and they basically wanted to know how they could help us facilitate a wave pool in the region."
Chair of the Economic Development Committee Cr Amanda Camm said the concept had merit and could form part of the council's Priority Development Area.
"Councillors have considered the proposal and agreed the best way to move forward was to gauge whether it's financially feasible to be included in the plans of the Priority Development Area," she said. "It is not currently part of council's long term financial plan, but we would be willing to discuss the idea with any private investor if they are interested in construction of a wave pool in our great region."
Greater Whitsunday Alliance chief executive officer Garry Scanlan said he would welcome any plan to develop social infrastructure which contributed to retaining and bringing people to the region. He also said if it was adopted on the council's priority development area he would work to connect the dots between investors and the council to try and make the project happen.
Councillor Laurence Bonaventura supported the concept and said that the council should look for ways to make it a reality.
"It would be more than a draw card - there is not one in Australia yet. It would set us apart," he said.
CEO Craig Doyle said the report highlighted limitations in a standalone wave pool based on a significant capital investment.
"Based on the population of the local region, there would be a large operating loss without additional visitors and an increase in population," he said.
But Cr Gee said while the report did find there were limitations these were because it only looked at the populations of Isaac, Mackay and Whitsundays to use the pool.
But he said it would be a point of difference to every city in Australia and would draw surfers from all over the world up to Airlie Beach as well as reef tourists to Mackay.
He pointed out statistics from wave pool Surfsnowdia in Wales, where 85% of customers are tourists.
He added he didn't want ratepayers to pay, instead wanted it to be a commercial operation.
Surfie talks up wave park
LEIGH Clark has been surfing since he was 13 and does a fair bit of travelling to satisfy his hobby.
He said the surfing community all over Central Queensland would be thrilled to have a wave pool and, he said, there would be high expectations for the design. "Apparently it would be one of the best wave pools being made," he said. "We watched a lot of footage and looked at travelling around and wave pools look okay but it is not the same as a wave in the ocean. But this is going to be bang on."
He said he had heard it might be a Greg Webber wave pool, who had beat a lot of other wave makers to it in design.
"I have mates in Yeppoon, Rockhampton and Moranbah that would move up here if it opens," he said.
Mackay has a substantial surfing community.
"When there is surf at the north wall at the harbour, there would be a hundred surfers in the harbour," said Mr Clark.
He said a surf park would bring something different to Mackay offering advantage and attracting tourists, who travel through to towns further north.