School site ?overwhelming

Queensland Tourism Minister Margaret Keech made her first visit to the Coolangatta Special School site yesterday, declaring the Kirra hilltop view "overwhelming", but refusing to endorse a proposed surfing museum.

"I can see why developers would give their eye teeth for this spot," Mrs Keech said.

She declined to comment on the surfing museum idea, which has some support from the local surfing community.

Mrs Keech suggested the special school site would be suitable for a nature reserve, with "beautiful gardens and quiet reflective areas" able to be used by the whole community, "not just a single group".

"This is a wonderful opportunity to have some green on the gold so close to the water," she said.

The special school is expected to relocate to the Currumbin Valley in the 2005/06 financial year. The education department had been considering whether the iconic halfhectare site, claimed to be worth about $20 million, should be sold off or retained for community use.

Mrs Keech said she aimed to meet Education Minister Anna Bligh with Burleigh MP Christine Smith to stress the site not be sold for private development. Mrs Smith said it was important to keep lobbying to stop any sell-off.

Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey said she was encouraged by a state government call for Gold Coast City Council comment on a proposal developed by her office for the site to be heritage listed.

Mrs Stuckey indicated federal government funds could assist public preservation of the site.

Council Division 14 by-election candidate Lynn Scammell, a former teacher aide at the special school, said developers too often tried to take over public land.

"Kirra Hill is a special place and it is the people's intergenerational right to have it as their playground," Mrs Scammell said.

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