The 36 metre Olympic ski jump training facility planned for one of the most pristine coastlines in New South Wales, will be just another white elephant according to many locals, who claim the $16m project contravenes the local Council’s very clear vision for the area and will be a ‘spectacular’ waste of taxpayers’ money for very little economic return.
The large metal structure, with six ramps of varying heights and a hydraulic lift, is slated for construction on low lying heathland, sandwiched between the white sand of Seven Mile beach and the tranquillity of Lake Ainsworth—in a town with a building height restriction of 8.4metres.
According to Michelle Shearer from the group Lennox Head Against The Ski Jump, ‘There is no other structure even remotely like it for hundreds of kilometres, and it will loom up out of the pristine landscape and be visible from every decent vantage point.’
Rejected By Queensland
In fact you need to cross the border into Queensland’s Gold Coast to find buildings as high or higher, but even they didn’t want it.
In 2012 a similar training facility was planned to be built at the Sleeman Sports Complex in Brisbane, but was axed because it was found to have ‘no proven economic benefits’ and personal training benefits to only ‘a very few elite athletes’.
No Proven Economic Benefits
According to the incoming Queensland Sports Minister of the time, Steve Dickson, ‘I’ve no hesitation in cancelling this project, which was approved and progressed using some of the most financially unsound reasoning I’ve seen.
‘…usage indicates that fewer than 10 elite athletes would have used it for training purposes,’ he said. ‘With no credible business case to speak of, …it’s hard to imagine how this ill-conceived, inappropriate project was ever progressed, let alone paid for with Queenslanders’ taxes’.
Although the community of Lennox Head is still waiting for a formal DA, no economic feasibility study has been provided to date, and many are doubtful that the proposed ‘financial gains’ will outweigh the losses.
According to Michelle Shearer, ‘It is very possible that just as many people will choose to stay away from Lennox Head if their spectacular views of untouched coastline are completely spoilt by this monstrosity. So the economics could cancel itself out entirely.’
Lennox Head Strategic Plan
For many in Lennox Head, the proposal’s contravention of the Council’s strategic vision for the area, should outrank any State or Olympic initiatives. The 2002 Plan is full of references to the importance of vistas, views, sensitive development and environmental fragility. Some examples are as follows:
- ‘Buildings taller than 2 storeys will not be permitted’
- ‘Protecting views and vistas to and from prominent ridgelines, headlands, beaches and other coastal areas’
- ‘Future development should seek to minimise impacts of urban development on these landscapes by way of sensitive design.’
- ‘Maintaining Lennox Head as a place where the natural environment dominates in terms of views’
- ‘Match development with the environment’.
‘It’s very difficult to see how this ski jump facility fits within any of the guidelines contained in the Strategic Plan,’ Ms Shearer said.
Jindabyne Wants It
‘I have been contacted by someone who says there is a place where this facility would be very welcome—Jindabyne. The community of Jindabyne, deep in ski country, would love to play host to the ski jump and they are offering the perfect location; a state-owned Sport and Recreation camp,’ Ms Shearer said.