SALE OF CARPARK AGAIN DIVISIVE
Council’s decision to offload a Surfers Paradise landmark has met fierce opposition – and it’s not the first time
FEW issues have divided the Gold Coast this year more than the sale of Bruce Bishop carpark in Surfers Paradise.
The Gold Coast City Council voted to sell the 30-year-old carpark and transit centre earlier this year despite a furious protest by local residents.
It hit the market last month and is expected to be redeveloped by its eventual buyer who would be forced as a condition of approval to retain a large amount of carparking.
However, this year’s debate was not the first time civic leaders had moved to rid themselves of the carpark.
Back in 2004 the newly elected council under Olympic legend and Mayor Ron Clarke moved to sell the carpark in a move which shocked the community.
And nobody was more upset than the man for whom the carpark was named for – Bruce Bishop.
Mr Bishop was a longserving Alderman on the old Gold Coast City Council in the 1970s and served in State Parliament from 1977 to 1980 as the Liberal Party member for Surfers Paradise.
After being defeated at the 1980 election by the National Party’s Rob Borbidge, Mr Bishop stepped away from public life in 1986 and moved to Mount Tamborine.
But the proposed sale of his legacy made the old lion roar once more.
By 2004, Mr Bishop was 79 but had the fury of a young man as he took aim at his successors.
“I can’t believe they are tossing away all our work – this is unimaginable, it’s a backward step,’’ he told The Bulletin.
“I’ve kept out of Gold Coast politics for the last 10 years, and I’ve never commented, even when asked, because I had my time and now it’s theirs.
“But I can’t keep quiet this time, the council is just going too far.
“It’s the easiest thing in the world to sell something. It’s impossible to get it back. If they do this, what has it all been for? Why did we resume those homes?’’
Cr Clarke hit back, suggesting Mr Bishop was more concerned about losing his name’s association with the area.
The battle over the sale culminated in a series of furious public meetings which brought together Mr Bishop as well as other figures including Mr Borbidge, Cr Clarke, former mayor Ray Stevens and thencouncillors Susie Douglas and Eddy Sarroff.
“This is asset-stripping the heart of the Gold Coast,’’ Mr Borbidge said.
“I am not aware of any council in the country that has gone down this path, on top of the neglect it has shown for the area over the past few years.
“We haven’t seen the roadworks completed and it has now become a shemozzle. The Neal Shannon Park is land that has been part of the heritage of the place and that is essential car parking in a suburb that has acknowledged car parking issues.”
Mr Borbidge then suggested he would potentially run for mayor himself.
The sale was resolved when Cr Clarke vetoed any redevelopment plans in December 2004.
But that wasn’t the end of the debate – another redevelopment plan was proposed in 2008 just weeks before the global financial crisis began, however it did not progress much further.
Rob Borbidge (left), Susie Douglas and Bruce Bishop leading the fight not to sell the carpark in 2004.
Bruce Bishop at the Surfers Paradise Transit Centre and the carpark named after him; and on the campaign trail in the 70s (right).