Native Title claim on The Spit could resurrect bid for a second Gold Coast casino

Native Title claim on The Spit could resurrect bid for a second Gold Coast casino

A second casino may be on the cards for the Gold Coast, but the outcome will depend on a successful Native Title claim lodged last week in the Federal Court by the local Indigenous community.

Five years after the Queensland Government put a stop to ASF Group’s (ASX: AFA) proposal for a $3 billion casino-resort on The Spit at Southport, the Kombumerri Ngarang-Wal Saltwater People have set out a new vision for the Gold Coast’s most controversial undeveloped parcel of land.

In a massive rebuff of the government’s master plan for The Spit released in 2019, Kombumerri elder David Dillon has described the proposal as a ‘waste and an underutilisation’ of the site.

“They could have come up with a better master plan,” Dillon tells Business News Australia.

In response to a major redevelopment proposed by ASF Group, The Spit master plan essentially has stopped redevelopment across most of The Spit. The plan sets aside 138 hectares of The Spit’s 201 hectares for open space, with the government poised to release some sites for limited development to activate the area. This is envisaged to include a new village centre that would incorporate an Aboriginal culture centre aimed at promoting Indigenous tourism on the Gold Coast.

However, Dillon says these plans sell the local Indigenous community short. He sees the Native Title claim as a test case to empower the Aboriginal community across Australia to gain economic benefit from their traditional lands.

“Selling T-shirts and boomerangs and putting on a few dances is not going to provide us with the long-term economic base we need,” he says.

“The best that they can come up with is a little building on The Spit where we can sell some stuff. It might provide a few jobs, but we want something more imaginative from our government.”

The failed ASF Group proposal comprised a five-tower development that included a casino, theatres, hotels and residential apartments. ASF was also in line for a proposed second casino licence for the Gold Coast at Southport before the state government abandoned the plan in 2020, to the relief of the city’s current operator The Star Entertainment Group (ASX: SGR).

Dillon says the aim is to transition The Spit into a world-class attraction on the scale of Central Park in New York that would benefit the broader Gold Coast community.

“The benefits will spread to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Our consultants say that if the government agrees to a casino, we could find at least $3 billion in capital to get a project off the ground. That’s a lot of money to inject into The Spit which will create a lot of jobs.”

The Kombumerri proposal will be modelled on the native American-run casinos operated on tribal lands in the US which generate more than $30 billion a year in revenue.  

“We’d like to take a leaf out of their book and we would network with first nations from the United States,” says Dillon. “At the moment, it’s too early to discuss potential financial partners in the venture.”

The Kombumerri Native Title claim only covers environmental reserves south of Couran on South Stradbroke Island to the Burleigh Head National Park and west to Nerang. The aim is to co-manage the reserves for the benefit of the community and environment. There is no general claim on the Gold Coast, where Dillon says native title has been largely extinguished.

The group is hoping to secure a ruling on its Native Title claim from the Federal Court within the next two years.

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