HomeArticlesBusiness & InvestLaying the foundation for a bigger future

Laying the foundation for a bigger future

Nick Nichols | October 2019

The Gold Coast has always been a city on the move, yet as its popularity reshapes the skyline, its allure remains the one constant.

When John Witheriff was growing up on the Gold Coast in the 1950s and 60s, one number struck him as remarkable.

That number was 987, the population of Broadbeach as it was revealed by the 1961 census.

Witheriff, the chairman of light rail operator GoldLinQ, may not have imagined as a boy that the Gold Coast could ever approach a population of one million. According to the Queensland Government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan, ShapingSEQ, the Gold Coast is expected to grow by an additional 351,100 people by 2041.

“In my lifetime, I have seen the city transform from a collection of small villages to the metropolis we have today,” says Witheriff.

“So, I’m not really concerned about growth. The reality is people want to live on the Gold Coast because of its beauty, its livability and the dynamic nature of the people living here.

The reality is people want to live on the Gold Coast because of its beauty, its livability and the dynamic nature of the people living here.

John Witheriff

“The challenge is to ensure that we manage the growth so that the city remains livable.”

Witheriff is among many optimistic Gold Coasters who have embraced change in the city. In their eyes it will always be the most livable city in Australia, arguing it’s the reason 15,000 people migrate there each year.

Chief lifeguard Warren Young has lived on the Gold Coast since 1973, and despite the changes since then he notes one important constant.

“Every part of the Coast has its own character and you don’t have to travel far to have a different experience.

Young spends a lot of his time meeting with locals and visitors.

“They nearly all remark on the golden sand that squeaks beneath your feet, the water quality and how clean the parks are kept. We set a very high standard here on the Gold Coast and we should be very proud.”

While tourism adds an extra layer of complexity to the Gold Coast’s growth story, Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista says it’s important to find a balance between tourism development that supports the economy and the city’s reputation for livability.

“Like all global cities, the Gold Coast needs to remain accessible and well-connected if it is to continue to enjoy the economic benefits that tourism delivers,” she says.

Witheriff says the unique evolution of the Gold Coast has offered up equally unique challenges to ensure the city can grow and remain a desirable place to live and play.

To accommodate an additional 351,00 people by 2041, the Gold Coast will need to accommodate 158,900 extra dwellings.

Higher density living is meeting those needs, including along beachfront suburbs which attract a healthy cohort of Gold Coasters downsizing from suburban homes. Research by Urbis shows there is ongoing demand for boutique apartment projects, with suburbs south of Broadbeach gaining in popularity in the past year.

There are other areas on the Gold Coast that have the right ingredients such as access to transport, employment and amenities to allow for more residents, including parts of Labrador, Biggera Waters and Southport West.

“Through the 80s, densification occurred by creating small-lot housing but that brought with it lots of lifestyle challenges,” says Witheriff.

“That view has matured to a point where all three levels of government agree that to responsibly intensify development you need to increase the population where people want to live, work and play.

“A fast, efficient and safe public transport system is critical to keep pace with growth and avoid gridlock in these areas.

The Gold Coast cannot build its way out of congestion and as the city grows, it needs a suite of transport options that will reduce the reliance on private cars.  The Gold Coast light rail was conceived as part of a broader way of thinking to cope with the city’s natural linear growth pattern and to help improve access to public transport in other parts of the city.

“The road that was built to serve the villages of the Gold Coast may have been suitable for Broadbeach with 987 people, but it’s certainly not suitable for a city approaching one million people”, he says.

Interested in learning about how the City of Gold Coast is responsibly managing growth and what are the proposed growth areas? Watch the video or visit gchaveyoursay.com.au/ourcityourplan 



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