Olympics or Recovery: Birkdale Whitewater Venue Being Debated After Multiple Weather Disasters

Whitewater venue
Signages at the Birkdale Community Precinct (Photo credit: Redland City Council)

Has the recent wave of storms and floods washed away Birkdale’s hopes of being a whitewater venue for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics? A damage assessment is being conducted to find out.

Read: Tragic Turn in Manly: A Storm, a Capsized Boat, and a Community in Mourning

State Development has ordered an assessment of whether the $100-million facility is the best use of public funds, after receiving a petition from nearly 400 Redland residents concerned about costs.

Chief petitioner Lavinia Wood welcomed the review, saying it would remind the government to spend frugally after the $2-billion storm damage bill from the Christmas Day severe thunderstorms and flooding.

Artist’s impression of the proposed Birkdale whitewater rafting facility and public swimming lagoon (Photo credit: Redland City Council)

Ms Wood argues there are cheaper alternatives, like temporary facilities or using existing venues interstate, such as the existing facilities in Penrith. She said even government supporters are angry about Olympics spending when families are homeless due to the storms.

Penrith Whitewater Stadium (Photo credit: Brett Williams-Brown)

In September 2023, the state government and Redland City Council insisted Birkdale was the right choice and would deliver a lasting benefit. The facility was planned as a legacy project, eventually becoming an adventure park for the community. 

It was also slated to be a training site for first responders, including swift-water rescue. But after the storms in late December, a legacy of adventure tourism and training facilities seems uncertain.

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State Development Min Grace Grace confirmed the complex is one of six new proposed venues for the 2032 Olympic Games. However, she said the review will evaluate whether Birkdale is necessary and makes best use of current facilities.

The future of the whitewater venue will likely depend on the recovery efforts from the devastating storms. With so many residents still rebuilding their lives, government funding may need to be redirected.

Read: Manly State School Grapples with Devastation Following Boxing Day Storm

The review’s recommendations, expected by March 2024, will determine if dreams of an Olympic legacy at Birkdale will wash away.

Published 15-January-2024