Far North Coast QLD is home to NorthBreak surf park, but fears the project will meet the same fate as the others

A proposal for Far North Queensland’s first surf park in Port Douglas is a case of deja vu for many in the tropical north.

The $317 million Douglas Shire Council-endorsed NorthBreak surf park has been well received by community leaders, but others used to seeing big announcements go nowhere will be keeping their fingers crossed that this project goes ahead. continue.

Over the years, international developers have come and gone from the Far North, with large-scale projects worth billions of dollars, but very few see the light of day.

Former Cairns mayor Kevin Byrne said the community had been ‘duped’ by over-hyped proposals that had not been thoroughly considered.

“A lot of them are grossly exaggerated and will probably never come out of the ground,” he said.

But Mr Byrne, who is now executive director of economic development agency Enterprise North, remained convinced that Far North Queensland was still a great place to invest.

This is what happened to some of the biggest development proposals:

Aquis Casino at Yorkeys Knob

In 2014, Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung announced a giant $8.1 billion resort and casino at Yorkeys Knob.

It has been reported as the largest six-star hotel and casino in the world with 7,500 hotel rooms, an 18-hole golf course and a lagoon resort.

But in 2016 Aquis struggled to secure a casino license and quickly abandoned plans to build a second casino, but announced at the time that it would continue with the giant resort.

Afterwards, the proposal quietly disappeared from Aquis Australia’s list of ongoing projects.

“Aquis was always going to be a bridge too far,” Mr Byrne said.

“The Cairns Community and Regional Council have been duped.”

Commercial property expert Danny Betros said the big-budget project never had any hope of seeing the light of day.

“The Aquis casino was a grounded type of development. The scale and size of it was just ridiculous,” he said.

The Aquis casino near Cairns has also faced strong opposition from locals and environmentalists.(Provided)

City of Nova

Additionally, in 2014, the $550 million seven-tower Nova City project was announced by Singaporean developer World Class Global.

Nova City has made it a mini-city within the CBD of Cairns, with construction due to begin in 2019.

But the resort was plagued with construction, procurement and staffing issues, as well as complaints from buyers.

In late 2021, World Class Global blamed COVID-19 as the cause for the project’s demise.

“Nova City’s business plan was flawed and relied on sales to foreign investors due to a growing international education profile,” Mr Byrne said.

It is not yet known what will happen to the Portsmith site.

Artists impression of the city of Nova at night with high rise buildings lit up against a blue sky
Nova City was supposed to be a city within a city near the CBD of Cairns before developers pulled the pin in late 2021.(Provided)

World tourism hub

The Queensland Government announced in 2019 that it was accepting expressions of interest for a global tourism hub to attract between 50,000 and 500,000 additional tourists a year.,

The 4.4 hectare Ports North neighborhood near the cruise terminal has been designated as the site for another casino, bars, restaurants, convention facilities and accommodations.

Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt at the time said ‘this would not be a repeat of the failure of the Aquis business’, but a year later he died in the water as COVID -19 was breaking international travel.

Mr Betros said the Global Tourism Hub was a pure political twist.

“The state government thought Cairns needed a second casino, which we don’t have, and then they said Cairns needed all these other things, which we didn’t have,” he said. he declared.

An aerial view of the seafront and port of cairns
The Cairns Global Tourism Hub has been reserved for the area next to the cruise terminal and the Cairns Convention Centre. (Provided)

Dunk Island and Mission Beach

The fallout from Mayfair 101’s failed Dunk Island venture is still being felt among investors, many of whom have lost their life savings.

In 2019, the private investment consortium paid $31 million for Dunk Island and acquired 200 properties in Mission Beach as part of an ambitious plan to create a tourism mecca.

When the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) began looking into Mayfair 101, the writing was on the wall.

The company’s founder, James Mawhinney, was fined $30 million last year for misleading conduct and banned for 20 years from promoting financial products.

A smiling man in a navy blue jacket and a white T-shirt standing in a park.
Mayfair 101 chief executive James Mawhinney is now banned from promoting financial projects.(Provided)

Adventure Waters Theme Park in Smithfield

In 2009, businessman Paul Freebody received approval from the Cairns Regional Council to build Adventure Waters near Smithfield to compete with Gold Coast theme parks.

Mr Freebody has boasted he could attract up to 300,000 visitors a year to the area, but the proposal has had its ups and downs.

Mr Freebody announced on his website last year: “With the recovery period from COVID-19 and the strength of investment and construction in Cairns and the region, we are talking to potential investors.”

An artist's impression of a water theme park with colorful slides.
The $45 million Adventure Waters theme park is still looking for investors. (Provided)

Danny Betros has some advice for future developers.

“For projects to rise, they have to be small, and they need small gestation periods,” he said.

“If you want to build a massive development on a floodplain, you’re in the forefront.

“When big developers come to town, they should really try to avoid roadblocks and all the extra layers of government.”

Developers Aquis, Nova City, and The Adventure Waters theme park have all been contacted for comment, and no response has been received at press time.

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