Community opposition to proposed Whitewater Centre

At its general meeting on 15 May 2024 Redland City Council voted 6/5 to confirm Redland City Council’s continued support for the proposed Redland Whitewater Centre.

Councillors voting FORCouncillors voting AGAINST
Cr Peter Mitchell (Division 2)Mayor Jos Mitchell
Cr Shane Rendalls (Division 5)Cr Wendy Boglary (Division 1)
Cr Julie Talty (Division 6)Cr Paul Golle (Division 3)
Cr Rowanne McKenzie (Division 7)Cr Lance Hewlett (Division 4)
Cr Tracey Huges (Division 8)Cr Paul Bishop (Division 10)
Cr Jaason Colley (Division 9)

Before Council discussed the motion to continue supporting the Whitewater Centre, they were provided with a community perspective by Ms Lavinia Wood representing community groups who are opposing the project.

Ahead of the Council meeting, councillors were provided with a detailed Briefing Paper. In twenty-one Key Messages, the Briefing Paper provides the facts, the science, and the understanding already widely held in the community about the proposed Whitewater Centre.

Proposed Redland Whitewater Centre: A Community Perspective

My name is Lavinia Wood.  I represent an alliance of six Redlands community organisations seeking to stop the Olympic Whitewater Centre proposed for the special lands of the Birkdale Community Precinct.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Firstly Councillors, congratulations on your recent election. It is a fresh start, and a new beginning.

Among you is a Councillor who campaigned with a very compelling slogan.  He said, “It’s time we had a Council that stopped doing things to Redlanders and started doing things for Redlanders”. And he was right.  It most certainly is time.   Much has been done to the people of the Redlands when it comes to Whitewater.

Councillors, the majority of Redlanders don’t want a Whitewater Centre, and never have.  It is an idea entirely of the previous Council’s own making.

We know that the previous Council committed land within the Birkdale Precinct to the Olympic Games without asking us.

We know that within Olympic bid documents, well before any community consultation had been done, the proposed Redlands Whitewater Centre was described as ‘Planned (irrespective of the Games)’. 

We know this was not true, and it was described this way to comply with the International Olympic Committee’s policy of using existing facilities – unless a new venue is already planned and underway.   

When the previous Council consulted us about a new Corporate Plan, the Draft Plan carried no mention of the Olympics or of Whitewater, and yet the final Corporate Plan includes a catalyst project progressing an Olympic standard Canoe-Kayak Slalom facility, and a photograph of a Whitewater competitor in action.

The previous Council needed the community to validate the Whitewater idea retrospectively, but when consulted, most Redlanders said we want to protect the Natural, Indigenous Cultural and European Heritage values of the Birkdale Community Precinct. 

We said our most important value was not a concrete channel of surging water, but Nature – being the waterways, flora and fauna. 

We gave the Whitewater Centre a low ranking, even though it had been offered to us packaged up with other attractive possibilities in a single option comprising ‘Swimming pool, water play, Olympic Standard Whitewater and adventure sports precinct’. 

Yet a Whitewater Centre is what we got. 

When the previous Council consulted us about placing a Local Government Infrastructure Designation (LGID) over the Birkdale Precinct, and thus removing our right to decide what might happen on the land, 83% of submissions delivered a resounding NO – but the previous Council voted to proceed anyway.

We know that the Rescue & Resilience Training Centre idea is a furphy, and that the Olympic Games will not build it.

And does anyone really believe Redland City can afford to build a $70-80 million swimming lagoon and operate it at a cost of some two million dollars a year, when we are struggling to keep our one community swimming pool intact, and the previous Council baulked at supporting the little pool on Russell Island?

We know the possibility of Redland City Council delivering a profit-making Whitewater Centre would require nothing short of an aquatic miracle.

We know that Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo can’t operate their Olympic Whitewater Centres without subsidy.  And that Penrith City Council finally offloaded the burden of the Sydney 2000 Whitewater Stadium to the New South Wales Government last year.

We know that Logan City Council did a great deal of due diligence as they considered Whitewater, then walked away.

We know that the wealthiest country on earth plans to host the Whitewater events of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games in an existing venue, far to the east, in Oklahoma.

And we know Australia’s Senate Inquiry into Olympic Preparedness concluded “that Australia does not need, and cannot sustain, two whitewater facilities.”

Councillors, if these things made a quid, private enterprise would be all over them.  But they are not. 

Clearly, Whitewater is the short straw of Olympic venues.  You won’t be letting anyone down if you too, walk away.

We know the State Government is ready to go with Plan B, and won’t give Redlands a second thought as they move on.   

And neither will the International Olympic Committee, who might not even include Whitewater as an Olympic event in 2032, and won’t confirm their final list of sports until 2029.

The report before you today says there may be financial consequences if you pull the pin on Whitewater.  Well so be it. 

Negotiating your way out will be far cheaper than owning and operating this thing for years to come.

As Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said to the Senate Inquiry, he feels sorry for future generations in Redlands who would have to “foot the bill” for the venue.

Councillors, you have before you a new beginning.  Please don’t do this to the people of the Redlands. 

Say no to Whitewater.  There is so much more you can do for your community.

Lavinia Wood
Spokesperson for community organisations opposed to the Redland Whitewater Centre

Briefing document provided to Redland City Councillors

This briefing document was provided to all Redland City councillors ahead of the Council’s general meeting on 15 May 2024.

The Briefing Paper highlights that:

  • The previous Council committed land within the Birkdale Precinct to the 2032 Olympic Games for a Whitewater Centre without asking the people of the Redlands, and well before any community consultation began. 
  • There appears to be no evidence that the proposed Redland Whitewater Centre would be financially viable; neither the Project Validation Report, nor the State Government’s own Gateway Review of the Whitewater Project, have been done.
  • The last six Olympic Whitewater Centres are either abandoned or subsidised.

Redlands2030 – 20 June 2024

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