Sea change caught be­fore crest of wave

Some ar­eas have it all but the big name, writes Fiona Cameron

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Primespace -

HOW of­ten do you hear about a place — af­ter its prop­erty mar­ket has peaked? Well here’s some­thing novel: a beach­front town that is yet to fully boom and has all the hall­marks of a clas­sic seachange des­ti­na­tion.

Real es­tate val­ues in the small com­mu­nity of Bar­gara, 380km north of Bris­bane, are rel­a­tively cheap while many other coastal towns and cities have boomed be­yond av­er­age af­ford­abil­ity in re­cent years. But with big de­vel­op­ers now work­ing on Bar­gara projects worth more than $ 200 mil­lion, that is set to change.

‘‘ It’s an af­ford­able Port Douglas,’’ says an­a­lyst Michael Ma­tusik, of Ma­tusik Prop­erty In­sights. ‘‘ Bar­gara’s big ad­van­tage — and a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity that is clos­ing — is that it is cheap.’’

Ma­tusik says re­search he did this year with the Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute of Aus­tralia shows that six out of 10 homes in Bar­gara are still af­ford­able to lo­cal res­i­dents and other Queens­land buy­ers.

‘‘ In Cairns it was only one out of 10, Townsville it’s three out of 10, Mackay it’s two out of 10,’’ he says.

‘‘ Her­vey Bay, in­ter­est­ingly, is two and a half out of 10, so only 25 per cent of lo­cal res­i­dents can af­ford to buy a house there. Her­vey Bay used to be the af­ford­able place on the Queens­land coast. That has changed and now the Bund­aberg re­gion and Bar­gara is the most af­ford­able lo­ca­tion.’’

Com­pared to Her­vey Bay, Bar­gara’s $ 150,000 va­cant hous­ing lots are 40 to 70 per cent cheaper.

Es­tab­lished houses in the Bund­aberg dis­trict, in­clud­ing Bar­gara, cost an av­er­age $ 260,000 — 33 per cent less than Her­vey Bay.

Bund­aberg/ Bar­gara house prices rose 12 per cent in the past 12 months, ac­cord­ing to Ma­tusik re­search.

‘‘ But in­ter­est­ingly, in the last quar­ter, prices rose 9 per cent, whereas in most cen­tral Queens­land lo­ca­tions, say from Mackay to Her­vey Bay, the price growth has been de­cel­er­at­ing,’’ Ma­tusik says.

‘‘ For ex­am­ple, in Rock­hamp­ton, prices rose 33 per cent last year but the latest fig­ures show only a 6 per cent in­crease there.

‘‘ In other words, many of th­ese cen­tral coastal mar­kets have al­ready peaked. I’m not say­ing they are go­ing to crash, but the Bund­aberg area hasn’t peaked yet — it is ac­cel­er­at­ing.’’

Bar­gara, with a pop­u­la­tion of about 5000, is re­garded as a satel­lite sub­urb of Bund­aberg, 13km away through cane­fields.

Mi­gra­tion to the area is pick­ing up pace: the Bund­aberg/ Bur­nett area’s 80,000 pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing by 2750 a year, up from 800 five years ago.

In the larger Wide Bay/ Bur­nett re­gion, the cur­rent 275,000 pop­u­la­tion is ris­ing by 6570 a year, com­pared to 2450 five years ago.

The Bur­nett Shire Coun­cil is based in Bar­gara, but un­der the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment’s state- wide coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tion plans, from next March it will merge with Bund­aberg City Coun­cil and two other nearby lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to form the Bund­aberg Re­gional Coun­cil.

Many of Bund­aberg’s higher­in­come work­ers choose to live in Bar­gara, at­tracted to the coastal com­mu­nity for its lifestyle and nat­u­ral beauty.

Big de­vel­op­ers that have seen a fu­ture for the vil­lage in­clude Aust­corp, Met­ri­con, CABE and Mir­vac.

Syd­ney- based CABE first moved into Bar­gara in 2003 and has since com­pleted three wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ments there — the ‘‘ C’’ and Manta five- star re­sorts on the Es­planade, and then Rock­pool, bou­tique beach­front apart­ments on Kellys Beach.

The com­pany has just started a fourth de­vel­op­ment, a beach­front project called Dune.

Gen­eral man­ager Mark Monk says CABE started in­vest­ing in Bar­gara be­cause it saw huge up­side there. ‘‘ Ev­ery­where across Aus­tralia, in­vestors and sea- chang­ers are look­ing for the next mar­ket.

‘‘ There isn’t a patch of coast­line that isn’t be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

‘‘ But we found some­thing quite spe­cial at Bar­gara. It still has all the ben­e­fits of a small, quiet coastal town with the con­nec­tiv­ity to city ser­vices at nearby Bund­aberg.’’

Bar­gara’s ac­cess to univer­si­ties, TAFEs, hos­pi­tals, an air­port, one of the largest re­tail cen­tres north of Bris­bane and good em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties make it at­trac­tive, he says.

CABE’s Bar­gara re­sorts have won a swag of de­sign, con­struc­tion and tourism awards, in­clud­ing recog­ni­tion from the Royal Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects and se­lec­tion as a fi­nal­ist in the UDIA awards for ex­cel­lence.

The 12 Dune apart­ments show just how far the Bar­gara mar­ket is push­ing out from its hum­ble roots: prices are be­tween $ 1.02 mil­lion and $ 1.225 mil­lion for three- bed­room lux­ury apart­ments with tim­ber floors, high ceil­ings and glazed walls that open to big beach­front tim­ber decks.

Ground- level apart­ments have private gar­dens with di­rect beach ac­cess.

Monk says only a few apart­ments re­main for sale in Manta, where oc­cu­pancy is run­ning above 65 per cent and apart­ments are priced be­tween $ 515,000 and $ 800,000.

Met­ri­con’s Breeze es­tate, a 98- lot sub­di­vi­sion at Bar­gara Beach, of­fers hous­ing lots for be­tween $ 155,000 and $ 205,000.

Sales man­ager Lance Cot­ter­ill says many neigh­bour­ing beach­front prop­er­ties are sell­ing at prices above $ 800,000.

The af­ford­able land meant peo­ple could own a house and land near the beach for $ 370,000.

Buyer in­ter­est is com­ing from peo­ple who have seen first- hand the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of sea­side com­mu­ni­ties like Noosa, Mooloolaba and Her­vey Bay.

‘‘ I of­ten hear peo­ple say how re­ward­ing it would be to go back in time and in­vest in prop­erty hot spots be­fore they re­ally took off,’’ Cot­ter­ill says. ‘‘ Some see Bar­gara as their sec­ond chance.’’

Met­ri­con project man­ager Dale Scotcher says Bar­gara has two tav­erns, more than 10 restau­rants and cafes, in­clud­ing al fresco eateries over­look­ing the newly re­fur­bished board­walk and ocean.

Syd­ney de­vel­oper Aust­corp’s $ 120 mil­lion Coral Cove de­vel­op­ment of­fers one of the town’s two golf cour­ses.

Ma­tusik says tourists also ben­e­fit from Bar­gara’s af­ford­abil­ity, with the town of­fer­ing new hol­i­day apart­ments with room rates be­tween 20 and 50 per cent cheaper than the Sun­shine Coast or north­ern NSW, and four- star ho­tel rooms be­tween 40 and 70 per cent cheaper.

Tourist vis­i­tor nights were up 16 per cent in the past year, he says, helped by the com­pe­ti­tion of Qan­tas and Vir­gin flights into Bund­aberg, and vis­i­tor spend­ing also is up.

Tourists are drawn to the area as the south­ern gate­way of the Bar­rier Reef, op­po­site the north­ern tip of Fraser Is­land, for div­ing and whale- watch­ing trips and boat out­ings to the reef and to Lady El­liott and Lady Mus­grave is­lands. Bar­gara also has the Mon Re­pos tur­tle sanc­tu­ary.

Ma­tusik says the area doesn’t of­fer as many hol­i­day ac­tiv­i­ties as other des­ti­na­tions, but it’s an ideal lo­ca­tion for a ‘‘ donoth­ing’’ short- stay get­away.

‘‘ Sit around the pool, go for a walk, go out once or twice, read a book — it’s that type of hol­i­day,’’ he says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.