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Gold Coast history and heritage

Discover how the City of Gold Coast is working to conserve and celebrate the rich and unique heritage of the Gold Coast.

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Robina history

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Click to enlarge Aerial view over Robina, 2005. Daryl Jones, photographer.

Aerial view over Robina, 2005.
Daryl Jones, photographer.

Planned communities

Towns and communities have generally grown around features such as rivers, harbours, beaches or along transport routes.

In the early days, settlers avoided areas which were flood prone, isolated from markets or disadvantaged by a lack of readily available services.

It was only in the last decades of the 20th century that massive earth moving equipment made it possible to reshape a landscape and build a road system on a grand scale.

On the Gold Coast, the rapid population growth and influx of investment capital in the late 1970s made the concept of a major planned town and residential centre, such as Robina, feasible for the first time.

When master planned communities were first developing in North America in the 1960s, the Gold Coast scene was still one of fibro, timber and brick family homes and weekenders.

Increasingly, these homes were dwarfed by the first high rise apartments lining the coastal strip.

In the hinterland, traditional farm houses surrounded by sheds and dairies were the main architectural features in a rural landscape.

The small towns and villages of the Hinterland were linked by mostly unsealed roads since the main road, today's Gold Coast Highway, was centred on the coastal strip.

Arthur Earle

When grazier/realtor, Arthur Earle, came to the Gold Coast in 1964, he purchased about 3000 acres of land situated between Nerang and Mudgeeraba and set about dozing a track through the middle of his land. The track became a busy road eventually and when it was linked up with the cuttings of the old railway line, it formed part of today's Pacific Highway.

Meanwhile developers were slowly dredging and reshaping land in the low lying areas along the Nerang River. They were creating canal estates where many housing allotments included much sought after water frontage.

Home of the Bunyip?

At this stage, the future site of Robina was still untouched - a wilderness of lagoons, paper barks and casuarina and home of the mythical Merrimac Bunyip.

The great swamp, as it was once known, was largely unexploited except as a leasehold for grazing cattle in a dry season. It was a difficult landscape for development and it had withstood many attempts by investors to reshape or transform it into a profitable asset.

Robina Land Corporation

In December 1980, Arthur Earle and Singapore developer Robin Loh purchased the 1658 hectare site for A$11.2 million from the liquidators of the Cambridge Credit Company.

The local real estate market was booming and the area west of Broadbeach was one of the few large undeveloped sites, close to the beach and commercial areas and major road systems.

The name Robina had been used by Robin Loh for a number of projects in South East Asia but eventually in Australia, Robina became associated with the business partnership of Arthur Earle and Robin Loh. The company was incorporated and given the name Robina Land Corporation and was managed by their Chief Executive, Rob Hill.

Planning a community

An urban planner, Moshe Safdie, who was based in California, was commissioned to develop the master concept plan that reshaped a landscape.

A group of surveyors and engineers established their headquarters in an old farmhouse in Gabriels Road and set about raising a lot of land above flood level.

Flood prone areas were built up from fill which was dug from artificial lakes. The first of a series of freshwater lakes, Lake Hugh Muntz, covering an area of 17 hectares, was completed in 1982.

Despite the use of massive earth moving equipment and what seemed to be bottomless amounts of investment capital, the project was still shaped by the land's location on a flood plain.

Robina community

Meanwhile in 1981, the first stage of housing blocks were on the market.

Neighbouring farm properties were purchased and the land holding was enlarged to over 1850 hectares and Robina became Australia's largest privately owned master planned residential community.

The Robina Town Centre was opened in 1996 and a community with the services of schools, hospital, rail link, police and fire stations has become a reality.

Information and images provided by the City of Gold Coast Local Studies Collection.

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