Ashley Robinson OAM

Ashley calls for time out on deciding Mooloolaba beach contractor

MAYORAL candidate Ashley Robinson has called on Sunshine Coast councillors to delay a decision on hiring a builder for the much-anticipated Mooloolaba beach revamp, and instead focus on ensuring residents, tourists and retailers do not become victims of the project.

Mr Robinson, OAM, has been CEO of Alexandra Headland Surf Life Saving Club for the past 13 years and said he is a strong supporter of the Council’s plans to revitalise Mooloolaba’s foreshore and improve facilities along the beach.

“But I’m an even stronger supporter of the locals who use the beach, the tourists who come here to enjoy it, and the retailers who strive to make a living by providing goods and services to them,” he said.

“And I want to ensure they are not unfairly and unnecessarily disadvantaged during the construction phase of this project.”

At its meeting on Thursday, the Council will study reports about the progress of the revitalisation plan, which will include replacing the iconic Loo With A View, consider the proposed establishment of two community reference groups, and authorise the CEO to finalise the tender process while the Council is in election caretaker mode.

“What’s the rush to nominate a builder?” Mr Robinson said. “This project has been bubbling away since 2015. Surely it can wait a few weeks until the new Council, which I hope to lead, has had an opportunity to consider every aspect of the project.

“Unless I’m missing something – and, if I am, so are a lot of people – this should hold for the new Council to consider, given it will need to deal with any consequences,” he said.

At the top of Mr Robinson’s list of concerns is the welfare of beach users, tourists and retailers during the construction phase of the second stage of the Mooloolaba Foreshore Revitalisation project – the strip of beach between Mooloolaba Surf Club and the Lower Beach Terrace carpark.

“I’ve managed major building projects myself – from concept to operation – and I know that things can, and do, go wrong. 

“Yet, amidst the enormous amount of publicity generated about this project, I’ve seen very little about the adverse effects that retailers will inevitably face when the beach is closed, parking places disappear and construction work takes place.

“I am very much aware of the damage done to Brisbane Road businesses during extensive roadworks there,” he said. “Any potential impacts to locals, businesses and tourism must be understood in advance and minimised.”

“If there are plans in place to mitigate the effects of noise, heavy construction equipment, space taken up with construction materials, the removal of parking spaces and the loss of access to the beach and shops, then I haven’t heard of them. And neither have the traders and the general public.”

He said retailers and accommodation providers along the Mooloolaba beach strip contributed $1.3 billion to the region’s economy. 

Mr Robinson stressed the beach was Mooloolaba’s major asset, and no revitalisation project should include plans to reduce it in size, or hinder access to it.

Stage 2 of the project includes a new terraced seawall and the construction of the Central Meeting Place, which comprises 6500sqm of beachfront parkland near the Brisbane Road entry point to Mooloolaba Esplanade. 

It features a shaded event and meeting space, open grassed areas, a viewing deck and new beach showers and toilets to replace the Loo With A View, which has reached the end of its functional life.

Stage 2 is part of a four-stage project which will be funded by the Council. The Federal Government has pledged $7.95 million – half the cost – towards the construction of the Stage 2 seawall.

Mr Robinson said he had been assured the Federal grant would not be in jeopardy if the contract for the works was not finalised during the ‘caretaker’ period.

“There is plenty of time to ensure that construction rolls out in a manner that doesn’t cause unreasonable restriction of beach access to locals and tourists, and doesn’t drive a dagger into the heart of the town’s economy,” he said.

He said if he was elected mayor, he would insist on absolute clarity about the real costs of every Council project, including the impact on locals, the business community and the economy.