Land shortage could force ‘the future’ of Port Douglas to leave


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Port Douglas real estate legend Tony McGrath believes the dearth of land, which has a significant impact on development, will affect major sectors of the local economy. IMAGE: Howard Salkow - Newsport.

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TONY McGrath boasts one of the most impressive real estate resumes and when he bemoans the lack of land supply and development in Port Douglas, you can be sure many will sit up and listen.

And in bringing this issue to the fore, McGrath says the dearth of land, which has a significant impact on development, affects major sectors of the economy:

• the young, who want to get into the market and buy land;
• the retired, who may not be in a financial position to buy something within their range;
• the building trade, which will force them to leave town and look elsewhere for work;
• retailers, who will see a drop in their bottom line; and
• the real estate industry.

“When we talk about the young, we are referring to the future. We need to be taking care of this demographic,” says the man who had the honour of the North Queensland region named the McGrath Region.

“The challenge is, if there is nowhere for them (the younger generation) to buy land at an affordable price (eg $180,000), some may stay, while others will head to the bigger cities,” says McGrath.

It concerns McGrath that the lack of development in the shire will stymie the region. “You can’t stop the clock, otherwise you fall behind and the danger signs are clearly evident.

“There is a seasoned joke about Council which still holds true: They put a gate around Port Douglas, then closed and locked it.”

McGrath, who made a lifestyle change when he re-located in Port Douglas in 1986 and began the LJ Hooker franchise – he is now a Pink Company director – strongly believes the retirement village earmarked for Ferrero Road should have gone ahead.

“We ran Steve Thomas (the developer) out of town and I don’t buy the argument it was on the wrong side of the highway. Its location was perfect. But more importantly, retirees want to live in Port Douglas and this would have been the ideal facility.

“I can tell you developers are not lining up to come into town. They saw what happened to Thomas and understandably don’t want similar treatment,” said McGrath, who has been involved in over half a billion dollars of real estate sales in the Port Douglas region.

And the wily octogenarian, who became a LJ Hooker franchise owner in 1979 when he opened two offices in NSW, LJ Hooker Toronto and Carnaby Real Estate, has seen many changes in Port Douglas.

Now, though, his concern about the slowing growth is foremost in his mind and if this is to continue, Port Douglas stands to lose in the long term.    

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