Land of op­por­tu­ni­ties

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

MARK Beale and Kevin Collins are ap­peal­ing to the Whitsunday com­mu­nity to put pol­i­tics aside, con­sider the re­gion’s pro­posed Chi­na­town de­vel­op­ment on its own mer­its and think long and hard about the fu­ture of Air­lie Beach.

Both men, while speak­ing from the per­spec­tives of dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions, have been prompted to come for­ward by what they see as neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity en­gulf­ing the town.

At the root of th­ese sto­ries are pro­pos­als to raise build­ing heights in Air­lie Beach in­clud­ing at the Chi­na­town site, as well as a Crime and Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion as­sess­ment of coun­cil’s han­dling of the de­vel­op­ment and a loom­ing Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment elec­tion in March 2016.

Mr Collins, who is pres­i­dent of the Whitsunday Coast Cham­ber of Com­merce, said he felt the re­cent “char­ac­ter at­tacks” on the mayor, coun­cil­lors and in­vestors, launched even be­fore a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion had been lodged, sent the wrong sig­nals and had the po­ten­tial to jeop­ar­dise in­vest­ment the com­mu­nity needed to pro­vide jobs in tourism, build­ing trades and sup­ply chains into the fu­ture.

“This whole is­sue should be about best out­comes, not per­sonal pol­i­tics – and about what is in the best in­ter­ests of the en­tire com­mu­nity, not just a se­lect few,” he said.

Mr Beale, who is pres­i­dent of the Whitsunday branch of the China Aus­tralia En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion Inc (CAEAI), said there were three is­sues at stake, with Chi­na­town’s backer Ray­mond Wang caught in the mid­dle.

He said first was the is­sue of po­lit­i­cal gain from those want­ing to dis­credit the cur­rent coun­cil and vote in a Bowen-based mayor at the up­com­ing elec­tion. Sec­ond was a “small mi­nor­ity op­posed to de­vel­op­ment”, and last was the is­sue of build­ing heights and coun­cil’s draft town plan.

With re­gard to the pol­i­tics, Mr Beale said he firmly be­lieved al­le­ga­tions against coun­cil and Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney were just “empty threats” de­signed to dis­credit the mayor.

He said the sale of the Water­son Way land to Whitsunday Chi­na­town Pty Ltd was ac­tu­ally a “very sim­ple” af­fair.

“Mr Wang wanted to pur­chase the land a long time ago and the mayor told (him) that by law it had to go to ten­der... and they used an agent from Townsville to do this,” he said.

“Mr Wang’s ten­der was the best one and there­fore ac­cepted (so) any­one say­ing it wasn’t done prop­erly needs to show why they think this is the case and be pre­pared to go to court over it.”

Mr Beale said those who ques­tioned Cr Whit­ney’s as­so­ci­a­tion with Mr Wang needed to un­der­stand the Chi­nese had a dif­fer­ent way of do­ing busi­ness that was all about build­ing re­la­tion­ships and trust and that it would be “po­lit­i­cal sui­cide” for any­one in coun­cil to do any­thing “un­der­hand”.With re­spect to those who might not want Air­lie Beach to change, Mr Beale said it could not stay the same for­ever.

“If it is not grow­ing, it is re­ced­ing. We need more build­ings, more jobs, more peo­ple mov­ing here and we need to make Air­lie Beach and the sur­round­ing ar­eas more re­sis­tant to the fluc­tu­at­ing tourism mar­kets so that the econ­omy stim­u­lates it­self,” he said.

Mr Collins added to this by say­ing as an in­creas­ing num­ber of af­flu­ent res­i­dents bought high-end apart­ments and homes within the cen­tral tourism precinct of Air­lie Beach, “we run the risk of an anti-de­vel­op­ment mind­set and be­com­ing an up­mar­ket retirement vil­lage”.

Both men said they wanted to see a town plan that pro­tected the tourism hub and en­cour­aged sen­si­ble and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

Mr Beale said un­der coun­cil’s draft scheme, the whole area around Water­son Way, not just Chi­na­town, would be open to eight-storey de­vel­op­ment.

“But this is not high-rise. High-rise is 20-plus,” he said, adding, “Mr Wang has said he will build to (what­ever) height coun­cil will al­low him to. Sim­ple. There will not be wall to wall, four and eight-storey build­ings in the main street”.

As for Chi­na­town, Mr Beale said the project would pro­vide many new main­land at­trac­tions for lo­cals and vis­i­tors to use and would ul­ti­mately at­tract thou­sands of peo­ple to Air­lie Beach. “And in par­tic­u­lar, a five-star ho­tel will be the piv­otal point in Air­lie Beach mov­ing for­ward,” he said.

“So to the lo­cals that are pro-de­vel­op­ment... now is the time to stand up and sup­port Coun­cil with the build­ing heights at Water­son Way. “Mr Wang has not lost faith in the re­gion. He loves the re­gion... (but) if Mr Wang de­cides not to build Chi­na­town the re­gion will have to wait for some­one else to do it, which may be never or many, many years.”

SKY­LINE: Kevin Collins, on the Chi­na­town block, where he says an eight-storey build­ing would hardly be taller than the high­est gum tree on the site. In the back­ground are Serene Apart­ments, which Mr Collins es­ti­mates at at least 15 storeys above sea level.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.