The head of the Darwin Waterfront Corporation has refused to say whether he supports a proposed surf park at the foreshore area despite repeated questioning, following the unsubstantiated announcement of government plans for a “world-class” surf park there, just a year after a water theme park proposal failed.
Over the weekend, the NT News splashed the possible plans on the front page, stating “NT authorities have remained tight-lipped on the details” but could possibly be “in early talks with federal counterparts about a potential stage two of the Darwin City Deal.”
The story quoted no named sources and offered no official government comment or indication that a comment was sought.
The mysterious proposal comes a year after the Gunner Government was forced to scrap plans to build a “water theme park” on contaminated land at the harbourfront near the old oil tanks after receiving no credible expressions of interest. It had spent $500,000 developing a feasibility plan and had budgeted a further $1.7 million to help get it off the ground before burying the idea.
Touted as being part of the NT’s “post-pandemic fightback”, the unconfirmed report about the new surf park pointed to support from the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission that has only mentioned broad support for expanding the waterfront with private money.
Days after the surf park report, Landbridge Group confirmed construction of the proposed luxury Westin Hotel on the waterfront had been suspended and the site would be cleared for pedestrian access to the foreshore over the next couple of months raising further speculation the project will not proceed.
A Landbridge spokeswoman told the NT Independent a 12-month extension was granted by the NT Government while “we consider the feasibility of continuing with the hotel development”.
If the project does not start by next June, it will not be happening, the spokeswoman said. The Gunner Government told media that if the hotel was not built, the land would be taken back.
Waterfront Corp GM urges caution around wild ideas that aren’t properly developed
Speaking on ABC Radio on Wednesday, Darwin Waterfront Corporation general manager Sam Burke was hesitant to underpin any support for the new surf park.
“The Waterfront Corporation’s focus is and always will be on ensuring that Darwin presents the tropical lifestyle destination domestically and internationally,” he said.
“I think there are lots of ideas at the moment and we’re excited to be on the list of ideas.”
Asked if there were any other ideas being floated for the prime real estate, he cautioned against throwing undeveloped ideas around.
“It is important we don’t come out and throw ideas into the wind that haven’t been properly developed, because what you get is opinions being formed one way or another, prior to business cases, engineering and all the rest of it,” he said.
“What I can comfortably say is that at the front of our mind is we want to continue to develop this precinct into a national and international tourism destination.
“In this new world we are living in, domestic travellers are looking for safe tropical alternatives to places like Bali.
“Darwin does have a role… in our tropical identity… we are not there yet, but Darwin really could be. The weather is perfect, and the Waterfront is the beginning of a story we think we can grow.”
The NT News reported the NT Government’s role in the deal would be “to make the land available”, which would involve ensuring the Waterfront Corporation is on board with the plan. It remains unclear how much taxpayer money they would be willing to pump into the new proposal.
The government would also need to pursue private funds for the project – which the previous water theme park showed were not available before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
As of yet, the NT Independent understands no such organisation has put their hand up to foot the bill for the project, which is projected to cost between $30 million and $40 million, according to the unsubstantiated report.