CHI­NA­TOWN SHOW­DOWN

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

AS THE Whit­sun­day Times went to press yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil­lors were de­cid­ing whether to ter­mi­nate the con­tract for a pro­posed Air­lie Beach Chi­na­town de­vel­op­ment or not.

The $300 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment on Water­son Way has been led by Peter ‘Ray­mond’ Wang of the China Aus­tralia En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion Inc (CAEAI), through a com­pany ti­tled Whit­sun­day Chi­na­town In­vest­ments (WCI).

Since the ini­tial agree­ment was en­tered into in 2014, the pro­ject has been plagued by con­tro­versy, most no­tably sur­round­ing build­ing heights.

In De­cem­ber 2015, Mr Wang sub­mit­ted a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion for a 15 storey build­ing on the site, but his as­so­ciates have al­ways promised he will build to what­ever height he is al­lowed.

For Mr Wang and his po­ten­tial Chi­nese in­vestors one of the ma­jor stick­ing points has been the re­quire­ment from coun­cil for a $1 mil­lion bank guar­an­tee, some­thing the

Whit­sun­day Times un­der­stands is not stan­dard pro­ce­dure with the sale of coun­cil land.

Mr Wang has in the past, tried to per­suade coun­cil to de­lay pay­ment of the bank guar­an­tee.

Last week, coun­cil­lors voted to give him an ex­ten­sion to 4pm on Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 3, by which to set­tle and pay the money due.

Coun­cil CEO Barry Omund­son said the WCI had con­tacted all coun­cil­lors via email on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions over the past week, re­quest­ing a fur­ther ex­ten­sion to Fe­bru­ary 17, due in part to the Chi­nese New Year.

Some mem­bers of the com­mu­nity have been sup­port­ive of this, with Whit­sun­day Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent David Gill­man is­su­ing an open let­ter to all coun­cil­lors and the com­mu­nity (Page 8) beg­ging: “Let's not waste a $300 mil­lion op­por­tu­nity and give Mr Wang suf­fi­cient time in which to set­tle Water­son Way”.

Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney did not take part in yester- day’s spe­cial meet­ing due to her “per­ceived” con­flicts of in­ter­est aris­ing from trips to China.

Cr Jan Clifford spoke in favour of an ex­ten­sion say­ing the job op­por­tu­ni­ties were end­less.

Cr Dave Cark said he was against an­other ex­ten­sion on a pro­ject that was meant to set­tle on June 24 last year.

Cr John Collins agreed the de­lays were “out­ra­geous”; how­ever as an elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive he felt the ma­jor­ity of his con­stituents weren’t say- ing they wanted the de­vel­op­ment to go away.

Cr John Atkin­son said while coun­cil didn’t want to be seen to be bend­ing over “we all know ev­ery­one’s cry­ing out for work”.

Deputy mayor An­drew Will­cox was against it, say­ing the time had come for coun­cil to “re-ten­der this valu­able piece of land and start with a clean slate”.

The mo­tion to give an ex­ten­sion un­til Fe­bru­ary 17 was lost through Will­cox us­ing his cast­ing vote.

CAEAI Whit­sun­day spokesper­son Jimmy Dun­can, who was present, ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment say­ing the size and scale of the pro­ject was some­thing not seen in the shire be­fore “and prac­ti­cally speak­ing it won't again”.

“I'm in the de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try and th­ese sorts of de­vel­op­ments are few and far be­tween even in peak times,” he said. Coun­cil CEO Barry Omund­son con­firmed as per the res­o­lu­tion last week, the con­tract would now be ter­mi­nated.

GATES TO NOWHERE: The land cur­rently re­served for the Chi­na­town de­vel­op­ment lays va­cant but for a fence and light poles IN­SET: An orig­i­nal con­cept draw­ing show­ing the vi­sion for Chi­na­town.

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