Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to off­load a Surfers Par­adise landmark has met fierce op­po­si­tion – and it’s not the first time

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

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).

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