$300m plan not over yet

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

THE con­tract for his pro­posed Chi­na­town pro­ject may have now been ter­mi­nated, but Peter Ray­mond Wang is ap­peal­ing to Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil and the com­mu­nity to bring the de­vel­op­ment back.

On Satur­day night, his son Ken Wang ad­dressed a Chi­nese New Year din­ner in Air­lie Beach say­ing that very day the fam­ily had spent thou­sands of dol­lars mow­ing the lawn on the Water­son Way site.

At­ten­dees were told of the Chi­nese proverb about how when a daugh­ter is mar­ried her fam­ily must still look af­ter her for­tunes even though she has left them for oth­ers.

“This is our tra­di­tion in China,” Ken Wang ex­plained, with the anal­ogy to Water­son Way that even though the con­tract had been ter­mi­nated, there was still good will.

Peter Wang is like­wise hop­ing Whit­sun­day Chi­na­town In­vest­ment can reach a new un­der­stand­ing with coun­cil and he’s pre­pared to meet con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions such as pay­ing the oner­ous bank guar­an­tee.

THE re­quire­ment for a $1 mil­lion bank guar­an­tee has been a ma­jor stick­ing point in ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Chi­na­town site for sev­eral months.

Mr Wang main­tains he didn’t know it was re­quired and his lawyer Stu­art Bell con­firms this was the case.

“Af­ter 20 years of de­liv­er­ing bad news you can pick peo­ple who re­ally don’t know some­thing,” he said, of the mo­ment he came on the scene and had to prop­erly ex­plain the con­tract to his client.

While Mr Wang and his as­so­ciates tried hard to ne­go­ti­ate with coun­cil over the guar­an­tee, there was no room to move.

From Whit­sun­day Chi­na­town In­vest­ment’s point of view it rep­re­sented a cul­tur­ally un­palat­able lack of trust and was un­fair be­cause no other de­vel­oper in the his­tory of the Whit­sun­days had been dealt with un­der th­ese terms.

From coun­cil’s point of view, the guar­an­tee was a safe­guard for the com­mu­nity that the prime site in the middle of Air­lie Beach would be de­vel­oped to a suit­able stan­dard in a timely man­ner and not sim­ply “land-banked”.

As the stale­mate con­tin­ued be­tween each party’s lawyers, rum­blings in the com­mu­nity started to in­crease.

“If he doesn’t have the money for the bank guar­an­tee, how will he pay for the $300 mil­lion pro­ject over­all,” peo­ple asked.

But Mr Wang’s as­so­ciates, in­clud­ing pres­i­dent of the Whit­sun­day branch of his China Aus­tralia En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion, Mark Beale, say it’s never been about the money.

“He took his cheque book to a meet­ing with coun­cil and of­fered to pay them $500,000 then and there,” Mr Beale said, with Mr Bell adding, “he also put $500,000 in our trust ac­count”.

This week, through an in­ter­preter, Mr Wang said he didn’t blame coun­cil for the way ne­go­ti­a­tions had panned out and wanted to take his share of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for any lan­guage and cul­tural bar­ri­ers to each party un­der­stand­ing what they were up for.

He said af­ter months of ne­go­ti­at­ing with his in­vestors, they were will­ing to pay the bank guar­an­tee and he sug­gested a 50/50 split, of $500,000 af­ter the de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved and $500,000 at the build­ing ap­proval stage.

He wanted to see the en­tire $1 mil­lion re­funded on com­ple­tion of the base­ment car park, he said.

Mr Beale, Mr Bell and Jimmy Dun­can, who ini­tially lodged the ten­der for the Chi­na­town de­vel­op­ment lease, all said the coun­cil didn’t have to ter­mi­nate the con­tract in the way they did on Fe­bru­ary 3 and there were ways to keep the pro­ject alive.

“If coun­cil says, ‘we want to con­tinue’, Peter wants to con­tinue too. We want to re-enli- ven the con­tract on th­ese re­vised terms,” Mr Bell said.

When asked what mem­bers of the com­mu­nity want­ing the de­vel­op­ment to go ahead could do to help, he said be­ing vo­cal was a good start. “Write to coun­cil. “We’ve got a de­vel­op­ment worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars – it’s prob­a­bly one of the largest in the state,” he said.

At yes­ter­day’s coun­cil meet­ing in Bowen, deputy mayor An­drew Will­cox moved a mo­tion that not­ing the ter­mi­na­tion of con­tract with WCI, coun­cil seek two new in­de­pen­dent val­u­a­tions of the land at 45–71 Water­son Way, re­solve to sell it with a re­serve price of the lower of th­ese, au­tho­rise the CEO to form a suit­able pro­ject team to fi­nalise and set­tle the sale and in­struct him to re­port monthly on the progress.

The mo­tion lapsed for want of a sec­on­der and con­se­quently no-one spoke to it.

There is per­haps there­fore a glim­mer of hope that the door could still be open to Mr Wang and his beloved Chi­na­town.

DUTY OF CARE: Peter Wang with his daugh­ter Mandy on the freshly mown grass of the Chi­na­town site.

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