Time to reinvigorate ‘80s ideologies
TOTOWARDS the endd off 1983, I was summoned to the Brisbane office of Sir Frank Moore, CEO of the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation (QTTC).
“We intend to establish a superb destination resort on 350 acres in a delightful village in the northern tropics of this state, Port Douglas,” he declared.
“You have been involved in this sort of thing elsewhere and we wish to adopt a philosophy first evoked by noted US landscape architect and planner Walter Collins in that ’no building shall be any higher than three-quarters the height of the tallest coconut trees’.”
It was a great idea and it worked - I had been with Walter’s group in Fiji.
I was invited to join his planning team and would be working under the leadership of famed US planner Larry Helber and a Queensland Government team of architects and engineers.
During most of 1984 we conspired to produce a master plan on a splendid site between a famous beach and the Coral Sea on one side and unspoiled mountain views on the other. The main road to Port Douglas ran through the centre - we would tunnel beneath the road and create a roundabout from which to enter the resort.
Finally the plan was completed and adopted by the QTTC. The project was let for “Expressions of Interest”.
Christopher Skase was the “can-do” man of the time.
And he had just bought Channel 0 Brisbane and was considered the best personality to take on this landmark project.
He was asked to work closely with local Port Douglas identity John Morris and his team, which thankfully he did.
All through 1985 and 1986 the Mirage emerged, as Skase’s own team of architects, engineers and builders took over, happily employing myself for some residential site planning and the golf course design and construction.
Gary Hunt, now a local architect, was brought on board. The Sheraton had come on board as the hotel operators.
Their guests arrived from a great variety of climes and countries who sought the “sizzle” of Four Mile Beach, the Coral Sea with its wondrous reefs, marvellous swimming lagoons, the company of coconut trees and warm sunshine. The Mirage immediately became the premier destination resort in Australasia.
Later, much later, major southern Queensland developers Juniper bought the Links Golf Course and surrounding lands and built their Sea Temple Resort.
“Only one thing Michael”, they said, “We want to give your links a more tropical feel with the planting of coconut trees throughout ... they are our ’theme’ trees for the resort and what our guests expect.”
As time passed and a new century emerged, things changed for the worse in front of the GFC. Tourism, our lifeblood, suffered terribly and Port Douglas struggled.
Not because we didn’t have the product, we did not have the people.
Here we are, at the beginning of 2012 and just when things show signs of national and international improvement, our tourist season soon to begin, new markets in China and other Asian sources poised, we find the myth of Port Douglas, blessed tourist haven of the Far North, has been infiltrated by a team of Bolsheviks in the name of the local council, determined to undermine our hard-won philosophies and reputation by embarking upon a scheme to rid us of our coconut trees and for that matter, attack the wellbeing of the 1200 oil palms which line the entry into Port. How bloody marvellous. Come on Brisbane, reinvigorate those splendid ideologies and philosophies of the 1980s which did so much to help put us on the tourist world stage.
Let’s start afresh.