It's now or never for Douglas Shire's 'Big Three' developments

Town developments

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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On Thursday, Paul Chiodo filed papers with the Planning and Environment Court in Brisbane to contest the rejection from council

Devoid of any new major development in the town since the opening of Juniper Development Group’s Coconut Grove on Macrossan Street in 2008, you may hear developers echoing the words from Elvis Presley’s 1960s hit, “It’s Now or Never.”

And three developers currently planning high profile projects may well agree that there is no time like the present and Port Douglas is ripe for development.

Timing is the key issue here and if, after all approvals have been granted, construction of the Big Three begins next year, they could be close to completion when normalcy returns and we are better managing the pandemic.

If this optimism bears fruit, all roads could lead to Port Douglas and the excitement that Christopher Skase generated in the 1980s could return.

But the Big Three all have their challenges and there is no guarantee they will all be approved.

$300m Fairmont Resort

This much anticipated property located between Oaks Hotels and Resorts and Mirage Country Club, has demanded the most attention and the original plan submitted to Council was overwhelmingly rejected by the Councillors and Mayor.

Now the battle lines have been drawn with developer Paul Chiodo sticking to his word and on Thursday, he filed papers with the Planning and Environment Court in Brisbane to contest this rejection.

In standing firm, Chiodo has again expressed his disappointment with Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr, but said the timing of this development could not be better.

“Michael has flip flopped and we have clearly lost his support. First he fully supported the project, and then took the advice of the town planners to reject it. This has been hard to accept.”

In a Newsport article on September 21, Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr reaffirmed his support for the proposed $300 million resort despite claims by the developer that he had lost the mayor’s backing.

In a detailed statement to Newsport, Kerr said Chiodo has the same support he always has.

“And I am very much in favour of growing our tourism offering. I am on the more positive side of development as I see the economic benefits that it brings, and I am more than willing to work with any developer to create amazing and appropriate projects for Douglas,” said Kerr.

Seven days later at an Open Session of Council, Councillors voted unanimously to endorse the town planners’ recommendation to refuse this development.

On a more positive note, Chiodo said if this project went ahead it would be welcomed by visitors to Port Douglas.

“With borders about to be re-opened and with it, normalcy returning, this resort will be a much-needed attraction to visit the port. There are too many positives and we also know it has the support of the community,” said Chiodo.

This was confirmed in a Newsport poll earlier this month that revealed 64.98% (386 respondents) have voted in favour of the proposed $300 million Fairmont project going ahead, while 32.32% (192 respondents) believe it’s too far outside the Planning Scheme. The poll attracted a total of 594 people.

Chiodo did say that he is still open to meeting with the Town Planners at any stage of the process.

Tim Gurner’s $60m Love Project

The developer of a $60 million ‘mixed use’ development on the 69-73 Murphy Street site overlooking the Esplanade, has been termed a “Love Project” by its developer Tim Gurner.

In his original plans, it was Gurner’s intention to continue its diversification into the ultra-high-end wellness, tourism and hotel space for a boutique ultra-luxury wellness, hotel and private residences retreat in Port Douglas situated on 2833sqm of beachfront land.

The retreat would encompass a holistic wellness experience complete with its own Samsara Wellness brand – the first of which will launch at the developer’s sold-out St Moritz address in St Kilda - containing a spa, sauna, ice baths and cryotherapy, pool and treatment rooms.

Once complete the site is set to feature 16 ultra-luxury private residences and a further 18 boutique hotel rooms. The hotel will also be home to a new iconic restaurant and cocktail bar.

He had hoped for construction to start mid-2021, if approved by Council.

But it’s been a rough ride for Gurner and a group calling themselves Protect our Paradise, have openly challenged the project.

They have listed where they believe the project is damaging on many levels:

  • Heavily and negatively impacts our iconic Four Mile Beach and Esplanade;
  • Ruins our Esplanade Park (Jalun Park);
  • Ignores the traditional town planning codes that have protected our “no taller than a palm tree” village signature which attracts guests and residents alike to the region;
  • Uses all but 100% of the 2833 square metres of the beach-end Flagstaff Hill with hardly a tree left standing (standard setbacks to adjoining buildings are not even provided for);
  • You are also intending to purchase from the State Government a portion of Flagstaff Hill located in the Esplanade to build on; and
  • Creates a precedent for high-rise high-impact developments throughout our Shire.

Although Gurner did not respond to Newsport’s request for an update, it has been learnt that an independent town planner has assessed his proposed development and Gurner has gone back to the drawing board.

It is believed a revised plan could be half the size of what was originally proposed. However, this has not been confirmed.

$317m Wave park

At the last Open Session of Council, an update was provided on the proposed $317m wave park, which will produce man-made waves, to be known as NorthBreak and located in the Mowbray Valley (5640 Captain Cook Highway, Mowbray). It is in close proximity to the Wangetti Trail, and is part of a proposal that involves the establishment of a tourist resort.

The application also includes a subdivision component whereby the parent parcel will be reconfigured into four large allotments which will reflect the Precinct Plan.

The applicant has undertaken referral to the State Assessment & Referral Agency (SARA) due to development proposal containing multiple triggers for assessment by various State Government Agencies.

Both SARA and Council have issued a request for further information which the Applicant is currently addressing. It is anticipated that the response to the information request will be received in the next few weeks. Once the response is received public notification of the development will commence.

Developer David Imgraben is quietly confident of a successful outcome.

“We have been working with SARA for 12 months and various State Government agencies. We’ve had discussions with Mayor Kerr, and we’ve done our research.

“I believe we are further down the track than it appears. We’ve responded to Council’s Request for Information and although there is a lot to be done, eg procedural matters, I would love to see this approved before Christmas and we’d target mid-year 2022 to start construction. This is in a perfect world,” he quipped.

Imgraben says the resort’s water will come from rainfall in the wet season, a bore and a storm water treatment plant.

What remains is the big question: Will it be a Now or Never?

RELATED: Developer Gurner’s $60m ‘love project’
RELATED: Rejected Fairmont project heads to court
RELATED: $317m surf park slated for Port Douglas


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