Wave to Dave

A coffee break

Paul Makin


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Dave Imgraben while awaying a little time with Newsport IMAGE Paul Makin

Local businessman Dave Imgraben, the Director of NorthBreak Developments Pty Ltd, is not one to blow his own trumpet or seek the limelight, in fact just the opposite. You could say he desperately wants to be low profile.

It’s not going to happen of course because he’s the man behind the proposed $300 million Port Douglas Wave Park and with that comes massive publicity and extreme scrutiny. I mean even now, he’s spending valuable time and money dealing with a small Douglas fringe group trying to prevent his dream becoming a reality. But that’s a story for another day. A mutual friend suggested I meet this high flying but preferred below the radar entrepreneur over coffee in Port Douglas. Being a stickler for time myself, I was impressed he turned up almost to the second for our meeting at the Whileaway Bookshop and Cafe in Macrossan Street. My late Mum always said you can judge a man’s character by his handshake.

It should be firm, the wet fish type never impressed her, yes firm but not too firm as to try and crush your hand and show dominance. Yessirree, Mum would have approved of Dave Imgraben. He was casually dressed in a Billabong top and shorts. This man is a long way from a suit and certainly no blow in.

The early years

Dave first came to Port Douglas in 1987 which was the same year Christopher Skase built the Sheraton Mirage. Of course, at that time he didn’t have the same dosh that Skasey had but he was certainly starting to parlay his wealth. Dave Imgraben was born in the South Australian town of Peterborough, 250k’s north of Adelaide. Since the settlement of Peterborough in 1870, the railways have been incredibly important to the district, with the town being the crossroads of Australia, linking North, South, East and West. In 1880 the lines linking Port Pirie and Adelaide were opened, followed by the line to Orroroo to the north, and finally Broken Hill/Silverton to the East and the NSW border.

Dave’s Dad had originally moved here from Germany for his new life working on the railroad and a great adventure for the family in this town filled with steam and smoke. Of course, Dave was in a huge hurry to get out “I didn’t really want to follow my father into boilermaking, so as a young man I headed to Adelaide to attend Pharmacy School” he said. Once qualified he worked in the big smoke for six months before heading to Townsville. While there he kept travelling the 411 k’s up to Port Douglas for pleasure but finally bit the bullet and arrived here in the late 80’s to become the local Chemist. “I set up shop at the Saltwater Building in Macrossan Street although it was called Pandanus Plaza back then” he said.

But, while happy to dispense his potions, the entrepreneur was starting to show and his first building project was Parkview in Mudlo Street followed by Macrossan House, a 4-star apartment project in the main street. His large-scale monopoly set was starting to grow. In the year 2000 he left to raise a family on the Gold Coast, but his heart was always in Port. He returned in 2012 for a short stay and hasn’t left.

Another thing I learnt about Dave is the fact his ego takes a back seat when he talks about Port Douglas and his dreams of seeing it become a better place. His eyes light up when he talks about the Wave Park and what it will do for the town, its locals, and visitors. He tells me he might even get a vintage Mambo surfboard out of mothballs to ride the wave himself. One gets the feeling Dave is a huge fan of the multi-millionaire creator of surf brand Billabong, who’s an inspiration to any self-made man “Gordy used to make his board shorts on his kitchen table with his sewing machine and his sales guy is now my sales guy”.

It was over

The hour or so with this bloke flew. Of course, there were some things we discussed at the Whileaway Bookshop and Cafe that will stay at the Whileaway Bookshop and Café, but on the whole a very enlightening chat with a very impressive man “nice to meet you Paul”, nice to meet you Dave. He gave me that firm, but not too firm handshake and he was gone.

COMING UP: Next Monday and Tuesday, in a Newsport two-part special feature, Wave Park founder Dave Imgraben reveals when he hopes the facility will open, details what benefits he feels it will provide the Douglas Shire and why the project is so close to his heart.

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