AS the battle to establish a cruise ship terminal on Wave Break Island continues, the superyacht industry is quietly seeking Labor Government support to create a new home in the Broadwater for some of the world's biggest privately-owned luxury vessels.
MaryAnne Edwards, chief executive of the Australian International Marine Export (AIMEX) Group and Superyacht Australia, says the Gold Coast is missing out on a lucrative market that can contribute significantly to the growth of the Gold Coast.
Latest research in the industry suggests superyachts contribute more than $34 billion to the global economy, but Edwards says Australia only attracts 1 per cent of the global superyacht fleet.
Edwards says the supply chain generated from the superyacht sector and additional marina berthing is "huge".
"It encompasses everyone from the marina operator to the butcher, baker, candlestick maker and creates a plethora of employment opportunities," she says.
"The value of one 50 metre superyacht visiting the Gold Coast for a week means on average they would spend $20,000 per day on tourism related activities and around $100,000 on other supplies and fees. The longer they stay the more money they spend.
"(In addition) one superyacht spends 10 per cent of its value each year simply on maintaining and operating the vessel. For a $50 million vessel this is $5 million guaranteed if the vessel was cruising Australia for a year or pro rata this for less time."
Edwards, along with Barry Jenkins (the chairman of Superyacht Australia), Steve Sammes (general manager of Gold Coast Marina) and Murray Owen (managing director of Marine Engineering Consultants), envisage a world-class marine precinct based at The Spit.
The precinct would incorporate all operational facilities necessary to support a full range of vessels using the marina and to welcome the owners and their support crews, a comprehensive mixed-use development of retail, commercial, hospitality and accommodation.
Sammes says with a new government comes a new list of priorities and he urges the Labor Government to fast track the maintenance dredging of the Broadwater, the channels and the Coomera River into the marine precinct.
"Compare them to a major highway - those channels are our marine highway for the bigger boats to come into the seaway and navigate safely within the channel areas to and from the marinas and also down into the marine precinct," says Sammes.
"It is critical that these channels, our highways, are maintained to take out the lumps and bumps in some of the areas of the Broadwater.
"If the M1 motorway had lumps and bumps there would be an uproar. The marine industry needs that to be addressed."
Sammes says a new superyacht berth should be on the cards once the dredging issue has been addressed, and he describes The Spit as "an ideal location for a shelved, protected marina development".
"We are getting increased enquiries, particularly from the US, looking for quality facilities for these sorts of vessels to be berthed and currently the Broadwater has a limitation on how many superyachts can be accommodated at one location," says Sammes.
"There is a pressing need to consider this development of a superyacht facility."
Sammes says a superyacht marina is a viable alternative to the cruise ship terminal, and it would contribute more to the local economy and prevent congestion along The Spit.
"I can't see that the local economy will benefit from having a cruise ship in one day and then out the next," he says.
"If you get a visiting superyacht, they are not in for one day those people spend time here, and every one of those vessel owners are potential investors. They bring far better value to the local economy over a far longer period.
"Superyacht owners are among the top 5 per cent income earners in the world, so there are the direct benefits to the local economy in terms of the works that are carried out on these boats, in terms of refit.
"And indirect benefits to the local economy are these vessels are going to stay here for a while - they are very astute investor businessmen and they will be looking for other opportunities within our region."
CEO of the Gold Coast Waterways Authority Hal Morris agrees that superyachts is a major industry that the city is missing out on.
"Superyachts mean skilled, well-paying jobs for the Gold Coast as part of an international business worth billions of dollars," says Morris.
"We are already working under the water and behind the scenes making sure that the channels in the Broadwater and up to the Coomera marine precinct are deep enough to encourage our share of this great business to the Gold Coast."
Morris says the authority has recently secured land at the Coomera marine precinct for the construction of a dredge spoil handling facility.
"This will let us go ahead and dredge the Coomera River upstream from Sanctuary Cove to allow for larger vessels," he says.
"In turn this will mean that businesses invest more and create more jobs at the precinct. The plan for the spoil is to dry it out and blend it with green waste so that it can be used in things like potting mix."
The Gold Coast marine precinct was first operational in Coomera in 2000 and represents an area of land some 250 hectares.
Most recently the precinct invested in $1.3 million worth of equipment capable of lifting vessels up to 250 tonnes.
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