Surfers Paradise, less than an hour's drive south of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is now at the heart of Australia's fastest-growing region in terms of both population and economic development. To some, Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast-a strip of coastline that extends southward from Brisbane for about 100 kilometers to the New South Wales border-is the nightmare that will overwhelm much of Queensland's coastal regions if present population and tourist development trends continue. To others, Surfers Paradise is a dream about to come true, the symbol of a glittering future that will see Queensland transformed from Australia's poorest state into its richest and most populated one. According to this dream, Queensland will become Australia's California, and Brisbane the new Los Angeles-but without L.A.'s drug and crime problems, its ethnic tensions, its increasingly polluted environment. In a sense, Surfers Paradise looks and feels much like any of the dozens of beach municipalities of Southern California. The small town center is full of takeout food stands, shopping malls, dozens of stores selling relatively cheap Australiana, department stores, outdoor cafes, jewelry stores, and tourist apartments and hotels. Everywhere there are young Japanese couples clearly on their honeymoons, cameras in hand, soaking in the sunshine and looking for mementos to take home. Then there are the busloads of middle-aged Japanese snapping photographs from bus windows. They watch the young skateboarders and in-line skaters racing up and down the boardwalk and the mainly elderly Australians strolling along the footpath. Many of those older residents are retired and fairly newly arrived from the southern states.

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