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(Australian Associated Press)
For the ever-growing number of yachties that traverse Australia’s east coast, the Gold Coast’s Coomera River offers sanctuary, safety and beauty. Thirty minutes from Surfers Paradise, Coomera has thrown a lifeline to many a mariner looking for a port – storm or not.
Developed in the early 2000s, the Coomera Marine Precinct capitalises on the area’s natural assets as a centre of excellence for marine servicing and boat building.
“Coomera has everything you’d want from a marine precinct,” says Tony Longhurst, owner of The Boat Works, boatyard, slipway and marina.
“You can get anything you need; you can work on any boat. For boaties, it’s the ultimate pit stop.”
It’s something Longhurst, a former V8 Supercar champion and long-time Gold Coast local knows a thing or two about.
The Longhurst family arrived in Coomera in 1974. Tony’s father John purchased 210 acres of land beside the Pacific Motorway to develop theme park Dreamworld, which officially opened in December 1981.
“Back then, there was one shop, six houses and a police station,” he says.
Four decades later, everything has changed: “It’s exploded. Coomera’s now the capital of boat servicing on the east coast. It’s too expensive in Sydney, and up north they just don’t have the facilities or the parts.”
The Gold Coast’s 260 kilometres of navigable waterways has made it home to one of the highest concentrations of skilled marine trades in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a crucial factor in fostering one of Australia’s largest boating communities.
“The demographics of boat owners have changed radically since I first came to Coomera,” he says.
“A boat isn’t subject to the same degradation as a car, so something that cost $1.5 million in 2000 could be bought for $300,000 today, but still is in perfect condition.”
The amount of inexpensive, quality boats on the market have given younger families a chance to set sail.
“But a lot of people don’t understand how much work a boat takes. You could be looking at $20,000 a year in maintenance.”
It’s that market that’s pushed The Boat Works to capacity: “We lift 50 boats from the water every week. Our facilities are taken up as quickly as we can build them.”
The boom has prompted a $100 million expansion of The Boat Works that’s set to galvanise the Coomera Marine Precinct’s status as the premier port on the east coast.
The new precinct, which will double The Boat Works’ current 20 acres, will include a dry marina for dry storage of up to 200 boats from 25 to 100ft. As well as expanded refit facilities, a new 50-berth marina and waterfront village will include boutique shops and restaurants.
The first boats will be welcomed into the marina in December, while stage one of the expansion is on target for completion by April 2019.
The expansion capitalises on the Gold Coast Waterways Authority’s commitment to dredge the Coomera River.
“Dredging the river means easier access, deeper water and improved water quality,” Longhurst says.
It’s good news for yachties, and according to Longhurst, even better news for locals.
“The locals get all the benefits. A shopping centre, a reworked waterfront, and one thousand new jobs available over the next year.”
Over the last 40 years, the Longhurst family has made its mark on the Gold Coast. For Tony Longhurst, the next 40 will be even better.
“There’s evolution ahead we can’t even imagine. It will be incredible.”
This feature has been produced in collaboration with the City of Gold Coast