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21 December 2018 Posted by 

COUNCIL BACKS WATER PARK

Golden opportunity being pursued
DALLAS SHERRINGHAM
THE Central Coast will get an adventure sports park development including a wave pool under an exciting new plan backed by Central Coast Council.

The plan was successfully introduced to council by Cr Bruce McLachlan at a recent general meeting.

It is a major coup for Cr McLachlan who has been pushing for a major water park development on the coast for several years, including using the former Old Sydney Town site.

Central Coast Business Access also had a key hand in supporting the project, with the cover of a recent edition devoted to the water park.

The new wave park will provide the “magical double” needed to make tourist attractions work, drawing both locals and visitors. Apart from attracting experienced surfers it will also be a potential lifesaver by providing a safe environment for people of all ages to learn surfing.

This will take some of the pressure off coast lifeguards and surf club patrols who constantly have to rescue inexperienced surfers who get into trouble.

Adventure destination

Council has agreed in principal to provide a suitable location for the park. It will draw up a list of ideal places to situate the park which has the potential to be the biggest, most important tourist attraction ever built on the coast.

Cr McLachlan plans an adventure style theme park area which will build on the Coast’s current promotion as an Adventure Destination.

Australia has quickly become the latest destination to build commercial, artificial surf parks, after the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater opened one at his surf ranch in the USA.

Mr Slater’s promotion of wave park surfing has given this new style of catching a wave great credibility with surfers worldwide.

Melbourne will be first to open one, followed closely by Sydney and Perth, with a dozen others also on the drawing board.

However, there are obvious questions about whether surfers will pay for something they currently enjoy for free.

A recent survey of surfers showed that every respondent l championed the wave pools as a brilliant idea they would be willing to try.

"I think they're a good idea especially for a consistent wave to get good practice," one local said.

"Having a wave pool where you've got that perfect wave to be able to constantly practise every day, sure I'd definitely pay the money."

Wave pools

But that hasn't always been the feeling. Early attempts at artificial wave pools around the globe met with derision and complaints the waves were too small and not powerful enough.

Retired surfing world champion Barton Lynch remembered trying early prototype wave pools in the 1980s and said the new technologies meant they now had something worthwhile to offer.

"To be able to create waves, man-made waves, and have them in a constant, safe environment is something that really does excite me," Mr Lynch said.

"Getting a perfect wave is a really hard thing to do, but if you can pay a small amount of money and go in there and take your turn and get a perfect wave, that's something that I think a lot of people will be interested in.

"We could be in for the ride of our life with some perfect waves that are there at the press of a button and, if so, that's well worth my time."

"Just in the last five years that I've been involved, we've seen a really rapid increase in both the acceptance of surf parks but also emerging technologies," he said.

"In the same way that people love to play golf on links courses, they still need to use golf driving ranges to practise their technique and ability, so surf parks can be seen as the driving range of surfing in some respects."

Surf Snowdonia in Wales has been open less than three years and welcomes more than 70,000 water users a year, much more than it had anticipated.

The World Surf League's (WSL) new chief executive Sophie Goldschmidt said they were really excited about the new wave pools and would hold two World Championship events at Kelly Slater’s facility next year.

Tipping point

"For a variety of reasons, the sport is at a real tipping point and momentum is really growing," she said.

"If we want to keep growing the sport and make sure it holds the place I think it deserves in the broader sporting global landscape, then we're continuing to push the boundaries and try new things.

"We still feel that our ocean events and surfing in the natural environment is as important as ever, but we also have this amazing new technology that allows us to go to markets that we could never have dreamt of going to, and it answers some of the challenges the sport has had for a few years especially from a program, broadcast perspective."

With 15 other wave parks under construction internationally, there is also an international race to design improved wave technology.

Queensland-based firm Surf Lakes is at the forefront of that race with a unique wave machine that uses a central plunger which forces out waves in concentric circles, like dropping a stone into water.

Surf Lakes director Reuben Buchanan said the key to commercially viable surf parks was productivity.

"You can shape all the waves a bit differently. You can have a barrel on one side for competitions, a beginner wave over here, an intermediate wave here, and you can spread everyone around the park so that at any time, you can have 240 surfers in the park at one time, all catching 10 waves every hour," he explained.

"If you can't make lots of waves, you can't get lots of people in there and you can make lots of money."

Currently there are more than 35 million surfers worldwide and the estimated global surf industry spend is more than $10B a year.

Losing revenue

But the WSL is losing revenue and sponsorship, and iconic surf companies like Billabong have struggled

With surfing set to be part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and surf technology advancing rapidly, the risk and rewards are both high.

Cr McLachlan told the recent Council meeting  if the wave park were to be built on Council land it could be on the basis of a “ground lease with rental paid” via a leasehold title and rent payable.”

Cr Doug Vincent supported the idea and said that all that was needed at this stage was a list of potentially suitable sites that Council staff could nominate for wave park operators to investigate further.

“The original motion is for us to make a forthright decision for industry to come to the Central Coast on a selected site that might be public land, crown land, private land or Darkinjung land,” Cr McLachlan said.

“We finally, have the opportunity to creating a World Class Adventure Sports Precinct on the coast,” Cr McLachlan said.

He said the park would be a great employment opportunity for youth in the region, which has one of the highest youth unemployment ratios in Australia.

Cr McLachlan indicated Gosford Classic Car Museum owner and leading developer Mr Tony Denny was interested in supporting the project.

He said in supporting the project, Council has voted to now try and identify suitable sites that could possibly be offered to the growing wave park industry and to actively try and attract new, private investment monies to the region.

Major investments

“Council doesn’t build or operate these Parks, they are major private investments,” he said

He added that Council can, and should, be a key catalyst in progressing new major tourism and employment projects for the Central Coast.

“Unfortunately I tried to get our former Councils to do this in 2016 and again this year with the proposed Old Sydney Town opportunity purchase and we are now playing a catch up game.”

Cr McLachlan warned that a similar wave park proposal was being discussed in the Hunter.

“We may have already lost the opportunity to another region already, but it’s now at least a step in the right direction.

“We have five million people within a two hour drive of the Central Coast. It’s time we started being pro active in capitalizing on our markets, instead of watching the Hunter Valley grab every new amenity north of Sydney.”

Cr McLachlan made a presentation of water parks around the world and to the meeting and said they were a major infrastructure and “if the Hunter gets it we will miss out”.

“Let's beat the Hunter to it,” he said.

Cr McLachlan’s plan has been a sensation on social media with hundreds of people expressing their support.

 



editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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