Few surprised by decision to halt marina re-development


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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An artist's impression of what had been planned for the Port Douglas Crystalbrook Marina. Image: Supplied.

The decision to indefinitely put on hold the re-development of the Port Douglas Marina has taken few by surprise, while some believe Crystalbrook Collection owner, Ghassan Aboud, has been a victim of his own circumstances.

At a media conference in Cairns yesterday, to mark the opening of his company’s newest hotel – the Bailey – Mr Aboud announced that the proposed $250 million Marina development had been placed on hold pending the future of increased traffic through Cairns Airport and support from the State Government to boost tourism numbers.

Mr Aboud said the State Government needed to support Cairns Airport and bring international airlines here. “This is very important,” he said.


He said Crystalbrook Collection will still work on the revised Development Application, but will not commence construction until they are comfortable with continued market growth and increased inbound aviation.

When asked how long he thought this might take, he said: “Ask the Government.”

Wendy Morris, chair of Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ), said there are still hard yards ahead, but this is not the end of the world.

“I am still confident that the re-development will take place, but timing will be key. In the interim, we need to focus on what we are good at and based on what we have to offer – the Great Barrier Reef and the Rainforest – Port Douglas remains the jewel in the crown of this region,” she said.

The Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, said it is disappointing to learn that Mr Aboud had decided to stop progress on the re-development.

“It was a business decision. Mr Aboud made it abundantly clear what needs to occur for the proposed development to be restarted.

“I would urge the Queensland Labor Government to work collaboratively with Mr Aboud to ensure this fantastic opportunity isn’t lost.”

Councillor Michael Kerr said he personally believes that while this is a disappointing announcement for not only Port Douglas, but the region in general.

“It is not surprising and it is a logical move on his behalf given the picture of the current economy.

Unfortunately, I know many locals who have been holding out in wait of this project to give the township the economic boost that it desperately requires, will also be very disappointed. 

“With full-time equivalent jobs reducing and last year showing the first population drop in Douglas (economy.id.com.au), stimulation projects like this are paramount.

“In saying that, I do believe that if Mr Aboud is successful in gaining the support of the State Government, and I hope he is, it will certainly assist in the long term success of not only his investments, but our local economy. A win for all,” said Clr Kerr.

Mark Flinn, Sales Manager and Licensee for Ray White Realtors, Port Douglas, said Mr Aboud created his own competition.

“I believe he should have spread his load. Instead, he has opened three hotels in the same market, whereas he could have opened two in Cairns and one here in Port Douglas.

“Unfortunately the decision to move ahead here in port has taken too long and he has lost momentum,” said Mr Flinn.

Kym Rowley, general manager of the Tin Shed and a councillor candidate in next year’s local government election, said Mr Aboud has been “burned” in Cairns and does not want the same to happen in Port Douglas.

“The current climate impacting the slowing tourism market has affected his properties in Cairns and he simply cannot afford the same result in Port Douglas.

“We also have to face the reality that it’s cheaper to holiday in some overseas countries than Port Douglas, for example, and this is a factor we need to take into account,” he said.

Barbara Wolveridge, Director, Queensland Sotheby’s International Realty, Port Douglas, said she was not surprised adding she never thought the re-development would proceed.

“I cannot blame him (Mr Aboud) for making the decision. He has already changed the face of Cairns and if the airlines are not going to fly into Cairns, why would he want to invest more than $200 million in Port Douglas.

“With domestic airline prices on the increase, you can fly for half the cost into Bali,” she said.

But she did not see the decision having an impact on real estate. “There are investors in the east, who will get a better return on their investment here – for a property worth $1.2 million, for example – than in Sydney, for example.

“There is considerable value here and I believe the market will remain strong.”

But Ms Wolveridge has echoed along with many that the Marina is looking “tired and sad” and needs work.
“However, I am sure at some point someone will come along and develop the Marina and this would be fabulous,” she said.

Gerry Ireland, a tourism advocate and the former chair of Douglas Inc. – an economic development group born out of the Douglas Chamber of Commerce – said the Marina has been an accident waiting to happen.

In saying he was not surprised by the decision out of Cairns yesterday, he said this region needs a demand-driven tourism model and “we need to take responsibility for visitation to the region.”

Former Douglas Shire Councillor and Council CEO, Terry Melchert, said the re-development will not take place with the current council.

“There was a window of opportunity to work closely with the developer and this has passed us by and it’s for this reason why I believe it will not happen under the current administration.

“The opportunity has been lost, but not forever. But we need a proactive council who can make this happen and what we don’t want is to play hardball, which is what has occurred,” said Mr Melchert.  

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