10th anniversary of Save Kirra Rally that created the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve

WORDS: Andrew McKinnon PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

As the first swell of the year hits the Southern Pointbreaks, Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve reflects on the massive North Kirra rally, Sunday 19th January 2014 to celebrate the 10th anniversary.

A 4-billion-dollar Ocean Terminal/Docking Station/Marina/ Casino was proposed for North Kirra/ Bilinga with huge ramifications for beach and surf amenity. The developer had paid the Qld State Government under the leadership of Premier Campbell Newman, a $500,000.00 deposit and plans were well advanced by the Hughes Brothers who had built the Southport Seaway.

Shaun Burns at Mavericks Dec 2023 photo supplied – Shaun is Chair of Santa Cruz WSR, Save the Waves rep and big wave charger will be in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the North Kirra Save Kirra WSR rally while he competes with his Santa Cruz Boardriders at this weekend’s Usher Cup at Snapper Rocks.

A public outcry erupted on social media with both Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning opposing the audacious plan triggering their millions of followers to voice their opposition on social media.

Boardriding clubs North End, Kirra, and Snapper, Tweed Gold Coast Surfrider Foundation, Surfing Queensland, Kirra Surf Club and many more volunteers and surfers from all over the SE coast got together to support one of the biggest rallies since the 2009 Australia Day protest to Bring Back Kirra.

Tradition Welcoming Ceremony Fingal Dancers photo OE

On the eve of the Sunday Rally to Save Kirra, Premier Newman canned the Ocean Terminal, yet the Casino plan was still on the table for the site.

Organizers chose to go ahead with the Rally and celebrate the Governments decision not to build an Ocean Terminal yet demonstrate how concerned the public were of any similar plans in the future.

Thousands attended to voice their opposition to an Ocean Terminal. Photo by Carlin O’Driscoll

Co-organizer of the Rally Andrew McKinnon said, “We can keep protesting or try and put something in place that will ultimately protect our breaks and I think a World Surfing Reserve can do that.”

Over two thousand protestors attended the Rally that was originally planned as a paddle out but due to the unsafe surf conditions was turned into a human imprint in the sand shaped in WSR letters by the participants and designed by legendary Coolangatta surfer/engineer the late John Standing.

Mick Fanning standing tall in support of the Save Kirra Rally in Jan 2014. Photo by Carlin O’Driscoll.

An application for Gold Coast to be a WSR was lodged in 2015 to the world governing Save the Waves Coalition and in October 2015 the southern end of the Gold Coast from Burleigh to Snapper Rocks was voted in as the 8th WSR.

It was endorsed by the Qld State Government and City of Gold Coast at an official ceremony attended by the Premier & Ministers, Mayor & Councilors & STW CEO Nik Strong In 2016.

One of the biggest public rallies seen in Coolangatta. photo by Carlin O’Driscoll

In 2017 there was talk of another similar plan for a cruise ship terminal at North Kirra although Mayor of the Gold Coast Tom Tate said, “It can’t be built in the World Surfing Reserve.”

In 2023 City of Gold Coast voted unanimously to renew the Surf Management Plan that underpins the GCWSR & Local Stewardship Committee for another five years.

Swilly aerial lineup from Snapper thru to Kirra Jan 19th 2014 photo by Simon “ Swilly” Williams

The Queensland State Government under former Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offered both Noosa & Gold Coast WSR further protection under existing State Government coastal legislation “code 8”.

There are now 12 WSRs worldwide with number 13 to be announced in 2024.

WSR human imprint in the sand by Simon “Swilly” Williams

Shaun Burns Chairman Santa Cruz Surfing Reserve & executive member of Save The Waves coalition will be in town. Shaun is a noted big wave charger at Mavericks and will join the 10th celebration during his visit at Snapper Rocks while competing with the Santa Cruz Boardriders in this weekend’s Usher Cup at Snapper Rocks.

For more information contact Andrew McKinnon aka AndyMac on 0412754974  

email: [email protected]