Debate continues over Palm Beach light rail

DINA GETOVA

Palm Beach residents are continuing to speak out against the fourth stage of the Gold Coast light rail project, which would extend the track to the Gold Coast Airport.

Gold Coast light rail

Palm Beach residents are concerned with the affect the light rail extension could have on the natural environment and on the Gold Coast Highway. Photo: Dina Getova

Palm Beach local Karen Rowles has been campaigning against any further extensions to the existing light rail track for five years, and is concerned about any planned route that would take the light rail through Palm Beach.

Ms Rowles said she believed extending the light rail through Palm Beach would result in “high-density high rises” being built “all through Palm Beach, as far back as the M1”.

Ms Rowles, who has previously campaigned against high-density development in the area after a high-rise was built right next to her home, said she believed the light rail would add to overdevelopment in the area.

She has started a petition against the light rail, which has so far been signed by 13,322 people.

The existing light rail track runs from Helensvale to Broadbeach, and Stage 3 of the project, which has been planned but not yet constructed, will extend the line from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads.

Stage 4 of the project will extend the track from Burleigh Heads through to the Gold Coast Airport in Coolangatta.

The original Stage 4 plan was for the light rail to travel through Palm Beach along the Gold Coast Highway, but the new proposal is to turn off on 19th Avenue and then avoid the Highway.

Despite resident concerns, the project looks set to go ahead after the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast made a pledge last week to start the business case for the light rail link, which will be funded under a 50/50 partnership between the State and Council.

Gold Coast light rail

Both the City of Gold Coast council and the Queensland Government believe the light rail extension is important for the city’s development. Photo: Dina Getova

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement that the deal was important for Queensland.

“This business case will support the next critical steps needed to push major transport investments on the Gold Coast forward which is vital for Queensland’s economic recovery,” the Premier said.

“This is about building a pipeline of projects that can continue to support and create jobs, boost our economy and improve transport for locals, particularly those living on the southern end of the Gold Coast.”

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate also defended the project and said the light rail extension was important for the area.

“Stage 4 will result in a 40km public transport spine linking key employment, transport, health and education nodes,” Cr Tate said.

“This southern link is of strategic importance to the Gold Coast, Queensland and New South Wales,” he said.

“It is so much more than a transport project.”

But Karen Rowles isn’t the only local who is opposed to the light rail extension.

Local council volunteer and Palm Beach Promotions Committee member Shannon May has also spoken out against the project.

Ms May, who also runs social media accounts for Palm Beach Gold Coast Community and Palm Beach Club 4221, said she believed the light rail would be “detrimental” to the already overcrowded Gold Coast Highway, as well as causing damage to the natural environment.

“To come through Palm Beach, it will need to go through our Burleigh National Park and kill many species, including our already endangered koalas,” Ms May said.

“We do not want the tram to cut up our beachside suburbs,” she said.

“There is nothing good that can come of this.”

Ms May said it was important to “represent the locals” when planning the light rail.

“As a local, I can tell you that the majority of people do not want the light rail coming through [Palm Beach],” she said.

“Nor do Burleigh residents for that matter.”

Stage 4 Gold Coast light rail extension map

Stage 4 of the light rail extension would extend the track from Burleigh Heads to the Gold Coast Airport. Photo: Courtesy Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads

 

Division 13 Councillor Daphne McDonald said residents from both Palm Beach and Burleigh had voiced concerns to her about the light rail.

“Issues that have been raised with me… are the impact on residents and businesses where stations are located, loss of green space and reduced deep planting, and the loss of car parks and the impact on surrounding streets,” Cr McDonald said.

Cr McDonald said other concerns from residents included the noise of the light rail and the potential for the light rail to “bring in crime”.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said Council was aware of the objections to the light rail extension and was working with the community to plan the new extension.

“I know some people have expressed concern and I’m urging robust debate as we finalise the plan,” Cr Tate said.

“I’ll be front and centre of this consultation to ensure we get the best outcome for our city,” he said.

But Ms May is unconvinced and has her own ideas about where the light rail extension should run.

“In my opinion the light rail should go down West Burleigh Road and link up to Varsity Station,” she said.

Ms May said that route would benefit big businesses without hindering locals.

“It would support many businesses along the way, including Stocklands and Tree Tops Shopping Centres,” she said.

Ms Rowles, however, remains firm on her “no light rail” stance.

“I’m completely against the light rail coming south of Broadbeach,” she said.

“I don’t want Stage 3A or 4 to go ahead at all.”

You can read more about the proposed light rail route on the Queensland Transport and Main Roads website.

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