Longhurst keeps growing his Gold Coast ‘field of dreams’ as marine industry booms

Longhurst keeps growing his Gold Coast ‘field of dreams’ as marine industry booms

The Boat Works at the Gold Coast Marine Precinct in Coomera

Tony Longhurst has put the pedal to the metal at his ‘field of dreams’ in the Gold Coast Marine Precinct at Coomera with plans to continue his expansion of The Boat Works superyacht facility amid sustained demand for marine services in southeast Queensland.

The ‘build it and they will come’ strategy shows no sign of abating for the former V8 race driver and marine industry veteran who has filled out the most recent expansion – a $30 million project on the property’s northern shipyard, which has helped more than double the facility’s superyacht capacity over the past two years to cater for vessels longer than 75 feet.

“We've been at this for 10 years,” Longhurst tells Business News Australia.

“When I started, we had just 18 boats. Now we have 60 boats and gone from 100 people on site to about 1,000-plus. It just keeps growing and growing.”

The Boat Works is arguably the fastest-growing business within the Gold Coast Marine Precinct, which is located on the banks of the Coomera River and employs more than 5,000 people across multiple businesses.

The marine precinct sits just behind Dreamworld, which was founded by Longhurst’s late father John, and is also home to luxury yacht manufacturer Riviera, owned by Longhurst’s brother Rodney.

The precinct is also dominated by Bill Barry-Cotter’s luxury yacht brand Maritimo and Quintrex manufacturer Telwater, which was acquired by Canada’s BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products) in 2019.

The latest expansion at The Boat Works includes 10 new refit sheds, 10 new hardstand allocations and 17 new marina berths. All will be ready to accept vessels in early 2024.

This brings the total number of sheds to more than 80 on site at The Boat Works, with all of them operating at capacity.

“Every time we build something it is at capacity we have a list from here to Dreamworld waiting to get in,” Longhurst says.

“There are thousands of boats being launched around the world each year and hundreds of them are making their way to Australia, but the marina and slipway facilities just aren’t keeping up. So every bit of land we own we are building on.”

The Boat Works spans more than 22ha, with Longhurst revealing that he is constantly assessing areas that are underutilised to optimise space at The Boat Works.

“We’re pushing out as far as we can,” he says.

Tony Longhurst, CEO and owner of The Boat Works: "Every time we build something it is at capacity."   

 

The Boat Works has another 4ha of vacant land to the south and west that is earmarked for further expansion.

However, Longhurst notes that it’s not only superyachts that are growing in popularity, but also smaller vessels bought by everyday families.

“There’s a massive sea-change of mums and dads buying boats," he says. "Catamarans are coming in from overseas, mums and dads are buying them and they're spending a couple of weeks in the yard every year or so for maintenance work.

“Forty years ago, a 35-foot boat was a big boat but now there are thousands upon thousands of them and the average-sized boat is now 70 feet.”

The latest data shows that Australia has about 925,000 registered marine vessels, with Queensland accounting for almost a third of the total ahead of NSW.

“The amount of money spent on boats to maintain them is enormous,” Longhurst says.

“It’s not just buying polish – it’s the labour needed to restore the boats and keep them in a seaworthy condition that provides massive employment for the industry.”

After landing back in Australia following a visit to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in the US last month, Longhurst is convinced the domestic industry remains as robust as ever and he is equally convinced that the environmental credentials of The Boat Works are second to none.

“I was blown away by how busy they are in the US, but I am equally blown away by how good our facilities are here in Australia,” he says.

“I’d say we have one of the best superyacht yards in Australia, if not the world. We are in a league of our own.”

Longhurst says The Boat Works had ‘huge advantage’ environmentally by starting on its expansion program with ‘a clean sheet of paper four years ago’.

“We have something really special here,” he says. “My family are all greenies so we like looking after the environment.”

The new Northern Yard of The Boat Works utilises bio-gardens and a sophisticated filtration system for stormwater runoff from the yard into the Coomera River.

During boat servicing, some wastewater is diverted to the sewerage system for treatment while clean water is re-harvested for use. The facility also utilises solar arrays on site and harvests water run-off from the roofs of the sheds.

“We are state-of-the art in terms of looking after the environment,” Longhurst says.

“Any other slipway would not even be at 50 per cent of where we are (from an environmental perspective). In front of our facility the water is crystal clear.”

With marine industry growth continuing unabated on the Gold Coast, Longhurst says his strategy is to continue building.

He argues that for his field of dreams there is no need to wait for them to come because 'they're already here’.

“I raced cars for 20 years and learned that you create your own luck,” he says.

“We can see what the demand is, so we build a section, open it and see how it goes. Now we have our heads around the business. We understand what the customer needs, what the tenant needs and what the workers need.

“We need big sheds with plenty of shade and we need to look after the environment. We’ve only got three things to concentrate on, so we consider ourselves very lucky.”

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