MP says city would be like Schoolies every day

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WHEN it comes to partying in Australia, few cities hold a candle to the Gold Coast.

Annually, its beachside suburb of Surfers Paradise flooded with high-school graduates for Schoolies but year-round, it’s chock full of night clubs, brothels and every type of bar imaginable.

The aptly named “Sin City” is the perfect place for everything from buck’s weekends to swingers’ parties.

Unsurprisingly, more often than not, parties like that get out of hand — which is exactly why the Gold Coast City Council is trying to legislate against potential problems.

The city’s council has announced major updates to its City Plan to create a zone in the middle of Surfer’s Paradise where revellers can let loose in “party houses”, which some MPs claim would be a “nightmare”.

“Party houses” are mostly private residences advertised on websites such as Stayz and Airbnb, rented to visitors looking for a raucous time.

SCHOOLIES ALL DAY, EVERY DAY

Queensland state MP John-Paul Langbroek strongly opposed the council’s proposed changes to the City Plan and said he’ll fight them no matter what.

The proposed changes will restrict “party houses” to a dedicated zone from the Q1 building on Hamilton Avenue in the south to Crowne Plaza on View Avenue in the north.

No “party houses” would be allowed west of the Nerang River, stretching the zone to seven blocks.

“Schoolies is already two weeks of hell so as a local member there’s no way I can say I’m just going to let this go and let it be OK,” Mr Langbroek told news.com.au.

While a similar “party house” plan has already been in place for two years, the Gold Coast’s major update to its City Plan will set these changes in stone which would force approved party house operators to draw up a crowd management plan, employ a bouncer, keep a log of guests and have a 24-hour hotline for any complaints.

“Just suggesting that they’re going to widen the zone they already allow for Schoolies is not the answer because there’s already around 3,000 residents that live there,” Mr Langbroek said.

“This sort of planning will ensure you’re going to have a kind of Schoolies 24-hours a day, 365-days a year,” he added.

While the council insists their “party house land use controls” will stop Gold Coast’s family filled suburbs having to deal with wild parties, Mr Langbroek said the laws will give the party groups more freedom than ever before.

“We don’t want there to be less regulation when they’re given the permission because of a party house plan to say ‘Well, this is the zone where we can basically do whatever we want.’ It’s not the Wild West, you can’t ignore the laws purely because you’re here celebrating someone’s engagement or wedding,” he said.

Despite Mr Langbroek’s criticisms, the Gold Coast City Council planning committee chairman Cameron Caldwell insisted the Surfers Paradise zoning would stop the “scourge” heading to the suburbs.

“These restrictions use planning laws as far as possible to limit the possibility of party houses to a very small defined area,” Mr Caldwell told The Gold Coast Bulletin .

“These provisions are aimed at saving our suburbs from the scourge of party houses.

“Over the last two years we have seen a dramatic reduction in disruption in our suburbs from party houses. We don’t want to see these in Broadbeach Waters, Mermaid Waters, Tallai, Isle of Capri etc. This is not new,” he added.

‘DISGUSTING BEHAVIOUR’

The proposal specifically included approval for “adult entertainment”, as long as it can’t be seen or heard by neighbours – this could include strippers and make allowances for swingers’ parties.

This clause will be especially difficult as the majority of Surfers Paradise consists of apartments and high-rise buildings, making noise complaints much more likely.

Council member for Mermaid Beach Ray Stevens is another MP opposed to the “party house” zone, looking to outlaw them once and for all.

“People across the canals in some Gold Coast suburbs have to witness terrible behaviour and lewd acts all night. It’s disgusting behaviour,” he said.

“Whether they’re bucks’ parties, strippers or any horrible or negative thing, these people are leaving the neighbourhood desecrated. They upset kids, adults are angry, some have even threatened violence,” he added.

Mr Stevens said “party houses”, most of which are advertised through Stayz, can charge more than $3000 a night making it “a very lucrative business”.

“It’s hard to police because officers arrive to the house, the women put their clothes back on and the music gets turned down then they drive around the corner and everything starts back up again.”

Mr Stevens, who wants to see party houses completely outlawed, said the issue lies with the renters but that owners should be held accountable.

“These backdoor systems are causing a lot of problems for people who choose to go through the proper system of the town and planning court. The laws should be upheld across the city and when party houses sink to a certain level of depravity, they should be shut down,” he said.

THE PETER PAN EFFECT

Australia’s “Sin City” can have a Peter Pan effect on tourists, encouraging them to embrace their inner child.

But that doesn’t mean visitors should disrespect or disregard the laws of the city, Mr Langbroek said.

“People want to party and we are a party town and as the member for Surfers Paradise I know it’s a magical place but you just can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s not as fast and lost as people make out,” he said.

“[We don’t want to turn into] places like Spain’s Mallorca where you go overseas and everyone is like ‘My god, there’s no adults here, we can just do whatever we want,’

“There are adults here and there are people that live here and we need to respect the local laws and the community.”

Mr Langbroek said he will “fight” the changes if need be.

“I think that is going way too far.”

natalie.wolfe@news.com.au



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Natalia Camp

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