FORMER Prime Minister Bob Hawke has been hired as a consultant to the new owners of the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas Resort.
He said that the Fullshare Group would be making ‘‘ a substantial investment’’ at Port Douglas as well as their newly acquired properties at Proserpine and Airline Beach.
After returning from a trade mission to China, Premier Campbell Newman this week revealed the company would be spending $350 million on the three properties, with the bulk of it spent at Port Douglas, to restore the resort to five- star status.
Mr Newman said the plan is to refurbish and upgrade the resort and also build a six-star resort on the Sheraton grounds and even build a new golf course.
The Hong Kong-based Chinese Fullshare Group has bought the Mirage, as well as the other two resorts, from Melbourne theatre magnate David Marriner, who originally bought the Sheraton Mirage in 2011 for $35 million.
Mr Hawke said Fullshare was ‘‘absolutely committed to making the investments as attractive as possible’’.
He said he was not aware of the detail nor when work would start but understood the golf courses at Port Douglas and Laguna Quays needed to be upgraded to ‘‘really good condition’’.
Mr Hawke said he expected work to start this year, ‘‘in the not so distant future’’.
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning, who was the only mayor on the trade mission, said he expected the work to start in weeks, not months, with documents to be lodged in a fortnight.
He said with the level of investment of about $ 200m it would employ about 200 people.
Sheraton Mirage general manager Lachlan Walker said the announcement was premature and the plans are still being finalised.
‘‘We are very excited with the announced plans for the Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas and look forward to working with the Fullshare Group, at this stage it is too early to release any further details,’’ he said.
Douglas Chamber of Commerce treasurer and manager of the Combined Club Kym Rowley said, once the upgrade is complete, it will bring in more visitors, which will benefit the whole region.
‘‘I think it’s a great move for this town from a commercial point of view and hopefully it will be the start of more things to happen,’’ he said.
‘‘In the days when the Sheraton was pumping, the whole town was pumping.’’
Division 10 Councillor Julia Leu said this is ‘‘excellent news’’.
‘‘It bodes very well for the future of Port Douglas having significant investment into this fabulous property,’’ she said.
‘‘It is in major need of significant investment to realise its full potential to reflect its stunning location and as an anchor property for Douglas.
‘‘This is news we have been waiting for for a long time. It will be a significant catalyst to drive much needed further investment into our region.’’
Urban Development Institute of Australia Far North president Adam Gowlett said it was ‘‘ fantastic news’’.
‘‘The region is on the cusp of great things. Our economy is being buoyed in many sectors. Our eggs are not all in just one basket which is very important,’’ he said.
Port Douglas and Daintree Tourism executive officer Doug Ryan said the business community welcomed the news and was eagerly awaiting details. ‘‘It’s fantastic,’’ he said. ‘‘The redevelopment of the property has been promised for so long and people are saying it’s about time. They feel it’s well overdue.’’