Wednesday 28 October 2009

Freebody's waterpark: Underwaterbelly - a tale of a putrefying road kill carcass

The Dillon Road Site, in the middle of Barron River Delta system, a serve and known flood plain

Sugarworld Waterslides, near Edmonton on the South side of Cairns

The Whitewater World, Gold Coast. Look at all those carparks!

The Wet n Wild park, Gold Coast

The whole sordid waterpark development proposal, that got the nod from Cairns Regional Council today, was voted against by Mayor Val Schier, Kirsten Lesina, Diane Forsyth, and Julia Leu. Every time one takes another look at this plan, it seems more and more like a putrefying road kill carcass, more maggots seem to crawl out of it.
"I did not support this proposal because it goes against the Cairns Plan," Councillor Diane Forsyth said. "Also, due the significant change in the visual amenity of the area, which only allows up to 8 meters, yet some structures will be 31 meters on this development."
"It sets a precedent for development of the Barron Delta. The site is very problematic due to flooding," Diane Forsyth says.
Most of the Councillors that voted against the application, did not appose the project, just the location. They showed great restraint in not attacking the applicant the nasty way he attacked them a few weeks earlier.
As a matter of public service, I provide a summary of some operational loopholes. I wish Freebody all the luck in the world with this venture, as he couldn't have chosen a worst site if he tried.
Those Councillors that supported today's vote, have a foolish understanding of the Barron River delta, and have failed in their duty to exercise good governance in allowing commercial development on this fragile and volatile water system. Council, nor Paul Freebody will have any ability to control the force of nature when we next see a flood the size of the late 1970's.

In addition to a Queensland business name, Adventure Waters Water Park, ASIC records also show a Queensland business name Adventure Mountain, and a registered company named Adventure Mountain Pty Ltd. The company registration was applied for in February 2007, with its registered office in Cairns.

One can only guess what Freebody had in mind with the 'Adventure Mountain' name. Perhaps he was copying the name of the now long defunct Gold Coast amusement park named Magic Mountain, or perhaps he was planning to acquire the old Portsmith landfill tip, which the Council are in the process of capping off.

Maybe Freebody realised that by the time he builds up the Dillon Road site above the Q100 level, it might seem like a small mountain, or just a large mountain of debt, or just maybe, he actually considered a hillside site some time ago.


The water park proposal states that the site is 7 hectares. With a land use comparison, Wet n Wild and Warner Bros Movie World at the Gold Coast, show some interesting comparisons. There is no dividing boundary shown between the two attractions, and the total area is around 143 hectare, which is over 20 times the area of Paul Freebody's Dillon Road site.

It's important to note that only stage 1 of the $30 million development will occur at this stage, planned to be built with a year. However the site is planned to include 16 water slides, restaurants, cafes, retail outlets and function rooms. Freebody expects approximately 248,500 visitors a year, using his “very conservative approach”.

Assuming that Wet n Wild occupies around half of the 143 hectare site, they have around 10 times the land area of the Dillon Road site for their 15 rides, pools, other facilities and car park. If Freebody intends to locate 16 slides and the other facilities on the 7 hectare site, then presumably the slides will not be very large or exciting. Alternatively, if stage 1 is for only part of the full facility, is he planning to acquire adjoining land for expansion?


It is good to see another waterpark operator is now throwing their hat into the ring as an alternative and competitor to Freebody's wet dream. Long time, highly successful tourism operators such as the Chapman, Freeman and Woodward families would have the wherewithal to create an attractive and successful development, based on their outstanding track records.


There have been a number of references and discussions of the possible dire consequences which could result if the Council dared to reject the approval of the Dillon Road proposal, one of which is the untenable outcome that the water park might be built in Townsville instead, resulting in a great loss to the Cairns community, and a perceived massive boost to the Townsville economy. If you considers the statement that the Cairns proposal is based on attracting over 20% of locals in their visitor numbers, leaving the remaining number comprising domestic and international visitors, then it is extremely unlikely that the same formula could be realistically applied to Townsville.

According to the data, there were only 264,000 domestic visitors, and 120,000 international visitors to Townsville in the 2008- 2009 financial year, which is around 19% of the visitor numbers to Cairns, so that a similar development in Townsville could not realistically expect either domestic or international visitors to comprise a major portion of their total visitor numbers. Given the cost of entry to a water park, the time and cost of travelling from Cairns to Townsville, and the incidental costs such as meals and accommodation, it is highly unlikely there would be many Cairns district residents who would travel to Townsville just to visit a water park.

So realistically, a similar water park in Townsville would be primarily supported by local residents, particularly considering that there is little else to do in Brownsville, and precious else water to see other than the ocean. If one attempts to look through the fog, you just might perceive that it was really just a diversion to hoodwink Council that Cairns was once again in morbid danger of losing yet another crown jewel to Townsville.

There would be a number of full time employees for management, supervisory and maintenance positions, possibly in the order of 30 persons, who would work different shifts to accommodate the seven-day trading needs, so perhaps the allocation of 30 car parking spaces for employees would be sufficient.
If the 30 full-time employees were paid an average of $50,000, there would be only $1.2 million left out of the wages budget of $2.7 million for the other 170 employees, resulting in an average of around $7,000 each. On that basis, Freebody is probably planning to use school kids as his slaves, especially as the busy periods would coincide with the days when there is no school, and there would be few other persons who would be prepared to work for that sort of income.
As the school kids would generally not be driving themselves, they would travel to and from work by bicycle, Sunbus or lifts from parents and friends, so maybe they wouldn't need car parking. Obviously, the part-time casual employment of 170 school kids will do little to reduce the local unemployment crisis, so the supporters who think the Waterpark will create 200 jobs and be our saviour will be sorely disappointed.
Dividing the $2.7m wages bill by 200 workers, to get an average of around $13,500. Considering there would be both some full time employees and some higher paid staff, there will be a lot of part time staff who will earn very little.
The second stage will cost another $7.5 million two years, followed by a third and fourth stages, however he's expecting to have at least six major rides on opening day, followed by a three more rides sometime years later. If Skyrail had really offered an alternate more suitable site, they may also have more than just a passing interest in the project, rather than a desire to help out a possibly struggling tourism competitor.
Google Earth images (above) show aerial views of Wet n Wild, Whitewater World, Sugarworld and the Dillon Road sites. This offers a good perspective of the development size, with any room for expansion. Wet n Wild already covers a far greater area than the Dillon Road site, and has ample unused land available for expansion.
The 1,400 car park spaces are also use by the R M Williams Outback Spectacular show, but as it only operates at night when Wet n Wild is closed, there is no conflict. Whitewater World is in the lower portion of the image, with Dreamworld in the upper portion. The 2,500 car park spaces are shared between the two parks.
Sugarworld waterslides and the adjoining Council parkland, are around the same size as Freebody's Dillon Road site. There is over half the number of car spaces planned for the Dillon Road site, despite Sugarworld being a far smaller operation, and also within walking or cycling distance for many Edmonton residents.
It appears that Paul Freebody plans to open his park with as many slides and rides as Whitewater World, yet on a much smaller land area, then expand it to be as large as Wet n Wild without any additional land, and only allowing for around 200 car park spaces. Perhaps he plans to aquire additional land from the neighbouring farmer.
Even if Freebody could fit more rides onto the existing site, it would be difficult to carry out the construction without storing materials and operating equipment outside his boundary. There is also the necessary slip lane to be considered. Is there enough space available without encroaching on the cane farm on the opposite side of Dillon Road?
Will the exit slip lane roading further reduce the size of his site? Will Council pay these substantial costs? Will Paul provide a sign thanking the local Councillor for his new slip lane? Even Google Earth images does not support the site as clearly shown by the misalignment of the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway opposite the Dillon Road intersection.
Adventure Waters is budgeting for around 250,000 visitors per year, with over 20% being locals. If Freebody, and his girlfriend Kathy Plath, expect to get just 50% of visitors from the tourist market, then with around 2 million domestic and international visitors a year to Cairns, they will need around 6.25% or 3 out of every 50 tourists, young or old to cough up. To attract them, he will need to promote heavily to that market, and have more staff on weekdays outside school holidays, as tourism is a 365 day a year business.
Based on the expected entry prices, visitors would be paying only 20% less than the entry cost to Wet n Wild, a mere 12% less than the entry cost to White Water World, and three times the amount of a visit to Sugarworld.
    Open 363.5 days per annum
    Hours 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM most days
    Day Pass Adult $49.95 Child $32.95 Average=$41.45
    Annual Pass Adult $145.95 Child $95.95 Average=$120.95
    Child is 4-13 years old
    15 world class rides
    Opened 1984
    Initial cost $20 million
    Around 1,400 car park spaces

    Open 363.5 days per annum
    Hours 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
    Day Pass Adult $45 Child $30 Average=$37.50
    Annual Pass Adult $130 Child $82 Average=$106
    7 world class rides including 4 of the world’s best water slides
    Opened 2006
    Initial cost $56 million
    85% to 90% of visitors from the domestic market
    70% of visitors from the surrounding area
    Around 2,500 car park spaces shared with Dreamworld

    Open on weekends, public holidays and school holidays
    Hours 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
    Day Pass Adult $12 Child 5-14 years $10 Child 3-14 years $4
    Average is probably around $11
    4 water slides
    0 mechanised thrill rides
    Over 100 car park spaces

    Open 363 days per annum, according to promotional video
    Budgeted turnover $11.1 million per annum
    Day Pass Adult $39 Child $27 Average=$33 ( article)
    Budgeted visitor numbers 248,500 per annum
    Budgeted average spend per visitor=$44.67
    Number of water slides?
    Number of mechanised thrill rides?
    Proposed initial cost of $30 or $35 million
    Over 20% of visitors from local market
    200 car park spaces
  • With sincere thanks to Fearless Fred for his support in this feature.


Unknown said...

a quick look at Movie World/Wet n Wild will show that there is no way that Wet n Wild uses 50% of the land they sit on

just to get it out there ... im not for or against the park

Anonymous said...

Magic mountain probably comes from another of his crazy schemes which was I believe to put a restaurant and some sort of ride or attraction at the site of the failed "Flying Leap" thing at Aeroglen. Once again a totally inappropriate location for a tacky development.

nocturnal congress said...

I think this latest development complete with a MovieWorld near Edmonton will probably kill Freebody's venture sooner or later.
This area simply cannot sustain three water ride attractions.

Unknown said...

Work in (mostly Australian related) international education and tourism marketing from Hungary, not sure whether fun parks would encourage domestic let alone international tourists?

Of more interest is talking to prospective tourists, both domestic and international, plus locals, to learn what they think about FNQ, and what sustainable facilities are best?

Cheers Andrew

Townsville Faggot said...

Your always talking down on Townsville. Considering Townsville is Australia's only city that has 300+ days of sunshine a year, you'd be made not to consider putting a waterpark in Townsville.

Info can be found here:

Deak said...

Hmmm. Townsville "Mount Isa by the Sea". Noice