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Cathy Van Extel : The Fungs have a vision to build a world class casino resort. At more than six times the spend, it'll make James Packers' Barangaroo Casino in Sydney look small scale.
It's part of a Queensland government plan to turn the state—and by default Australia—into an Asian casino gambling hub. The Newman government's granted the Fungs a preliminary casino licence and will make a final decision next year.
On set at the Aquis site near Cairns, Tony Fung takes a seat next to ancient farm machinery. He's surrounded by vast fields of sugar cane.
Towering behind him are the deep green rainforest clad mountains of the Barren Gorge National Park.
Tony Gordon : Relax back into your chair if you wouldn't mind, Tony. Just…yeah that's it. Both cameras rolling? Just that last question again, are you happy with the support you've had from the Cairns community?
Tony Fung : I'm very happy with the support I'm getting. I think we're sensitive to the local interests and concerns. We're sensitive to the environment.
We're sensitive to the Indigenous concerns, we're sensitive to the Yorkeys Knob residents' concerns…. Cathy Van Extel : We'll hear there are major environmental, economic and social concerns, including the possible devastating consequences of a massive increase in poker machines.
Francis Markham : Our modelling suggests that there will be quite a significant impact. The new casino is stated to contain an additional 1, poker machines and that's a very large number for a small town like Cairns.
Cathy Van Extel : The Aquis vision is to transform hectares of farmland—that's the equivalent of Sydney Cricket Grounds—into a glitzy six-star gambling resort, on par with those of the casino meccas of Macau and Singapore.
The US-educated lawyer is chief executive of Aquis:. Justin, here we are at Yorkeys Knob, we're surrounded by cane fields, there's the mountains in the backdrop.
Could you explain to me from where we are now, how this will be transformed? Justin Fung : Well, it's going to be transformed into a very large beautiful integrated resort project.
The entirety of the project would consist of about 7, hotel rooms. It's going to be built on an artificial island that would be about a kilometre long, it's a very, very big project.
It's going to be something that we envisage as an international icon of a resort. Cathy Van Extel : It's a Dubai-like design that will cater for up to 1, guests a day on an island in the middle of an artificial lake.
Eight hotel towers up to 20 storeys high will be built around lagoons on the island, with two casinos, theatres and all the usual resort offerings.
In the middle will be a convention centre. Surrounding the island will be sport and recreation facilities, including a championship golf course. Justin Fung : I think that most of the sceptics have probably never seen a real integrated resort that exists in Macau or Las Vegas or Singapore.
I think this is a completely different project than what you're thinking about when you think about a city centre casino that might exist somewhere else in Australia.
This is a different project. It's a game changer. Cathy Van Extel : Justin's father Tony Fung is making a high stakes play to attract big spending Chinese gamblers.
Tony Fung belongs to one of Hong Kong's best known banking families, and his father was known as the godfather of the stockmarket.
He's been visiting Cairns for the past two decades and has residential and farming interests in Queensland. While Tony Fung acknowledges he hasn't done anything like this before, his vision is to combine Cairns' natural wonders with a man-made wonder.
Tony Fung : I have no experience in resort development, but as a businessman the family has been in business for three generations, so I've seen how things are done.
If more tourists were to be exposed to these two world heritage sites—the Daintree forest and the Great Barrier Reef—it would astound them.
You know, with all the integrated resorts that's coming up all over the world, nothing can compare with the natural resource that we have here, and then from there onward it's all manmade.
Cathy Van Extel : This will be an enormous development in an area that's been ignored by developers in the past. Crisscrossed by crocodile inhabited creeks, it's a flood plain that is regularly inundated.
Aquis has secured a five-year option to buy this land. Just how much they've agreed to pay the seven local cane farmers who own it is confidential. The biggest landholder is year-old Frank Pappalardo who's worked the property since the 's.
He gave up farming eight years ago after too many difficult years. Frank Pappalardo : When I was working myself and the price was good, I made money.
But then the price kept going down and down, and since I leased it I think I just get enough money to pay the rates. Cathy Van Extel : When Tony Fung approached Frank Pappalardo to sell, the old cane farmer asked his grandson Frankie, a local pharmacist, whether he wanted to continue the family farming tradition.
Frank Pappalardo : So then I said, 'Frankie, your decision is more than mine. If I'm not here would you carry on the farm? Cathy Van Extel : Frank Pappalardo is one of those who thinks the Aquis resort will be a good thing for Cairns and that it'll bring the region a new era of prosperity.
But others wonder at what cost. The community is divided. A short drive east of Frank Pappalardo's farm is the Yorkeys Knob suburb, population 2, Pam Bigelow is the president of the Yorkeys Knob Residents Association, she's lived here for 22 years.
Pam Bigelow : Yorkeys Knob is a small village community on the beach, separated from the rest of Cairns by seven kilometres of road that goes through cane fields which flood in summer.
So it's quite an isolated little quiet pocket. Very strong family community, it's been a fabulous place for children, it's been safe.
It's just been a pretty idyllic lifestyle really for families. Cathy Van Extel : Pam Bigelow is also president of the Aquis Aware Coalition of Concerned Citizens, which has around members and is spearheading community opposition to the mega casino resort.
Pam Bigelow : I don't see massive casinos and family life really cohabitating particularly well. I don't see any evidence of that anywhere that I've researched, quite the opposite.
It is like Las Vegas coming to Cairns. It is a massive, massive development. People are confused, they're a little bit afraid, and those that really want it are quite aggressive about that line and don't want to hear or allow any discussion about the pros and cons.
Cathy Van Extel : As you drive out of Yorkeys Knob, the Aquis resort site extends for six kilometres on both sides of the road. Pam Bigelow : It's started already.
That last house back there is it, so it's right along here. These houses will all look at it. Apparently it's going to be screened by trees but I don't know about the light and the 20 storeys will be well above the treeline.
So you keep going and it keeps going. Cathy Van Extel : Currently the only development on that road is a service station that sits up high on a manmade hill.
Pam Bigelow says this road, which is the only way into and out of Yorkeys Knob, is cut off each year by flooding of the Barron River.
Pam Bigelow : It's really doing something that no-one who decided to live here, however many years ago, ever thought could happen.
To have something built on that area was considered impossible because it is the Barron River delta and it floods really, really reliably and regularly.
It's a very desirable area. It's, you know, great housing potential but it's not suitable. Displacing that land and building it up however causes issues with the movement of water and flooding.
So you put high places where it currently goes and you end up with water going to others. Cathy Van Extel : To the contrary, the Fungs say massive earthworks will reshape the landscape and flood-proof the resort, without creating problems for surrounding areas.
Justin Fung says the resort has been specifically designed to mitigate the flood risks. Justin Fung : We came up with a very creative solution along with architects and engineers to make sure that not only did we not negatively impact our neighbours but we're actually going to have a positive effect on the flooding issues in the surrounding areas, and if you look at the EIS it's a very comprehensively addressed issue.
Cathy Van Extel : That 'creative solution' contained in the Environmental Impact Statement is to build the resort island seven and a half metres above sea level, while the 33 hectare artificial lake and channels in the surrounding land are also flood mitigation measures.
But one of the nation's leading cyclone experts Jon Nott, a Professor of Geosciences at the nearby James Cook University, says the resort site is dangerous.
Jon Nott : It's on the flood plain of the Barron River. It's in an exceptionally storm surge-prone area. We've got tropical cyclones and storm surge and river flooding in a wet tropical environment.
And you couldn't put it in a more dangerous or vulnerable location than they are putting it. Cathy Van Extel : Professor Nott says the Environmental Impact Statement for the Aquis development is missing critical information on flood mitigation.
Jon Nott : All the workings-out behind the conclusions were not provided, so that makes it very, very difficult for anybody with any level of expertise in these areas to be able to assess the veracity of the conclusions and the quality of the maps etcetera that were produced in that EIS.
Cathy Van Extel : The EIS acknowledges climate change, and that's why the resort's island is seven and a half metres high. Jon Nott says that area hasn't experienced major inundation since the s, but the Cairns region has entered a climate phase that could see a return of big floods.
Jon Nott : With global climate change and the increased intensity of rainfall events and flooding events we can expect to see much bigger floods.
There's also natural climate variations which we are now just entering into a phase which makes it much more conducive to get big floodings over the next few decades.
And also we really are long overdue for a major cyclone in Cairns. So if, for example, a cyclone Yasi came through, instead this time it crossed just to the north of Cairns, somewhere between Cairns and Port Douglas, this resort would be impacted by waves and storm surge washing through there.
It can have major impacts to buildings, it can put people in danger, all of those issues that are associated with these hazards. Cathy Van Extel : The mountains of the Barron Gorge National Park behind the Yorkeys Knob resort site are a playground for tourists.
There's the famous Skyrail to the mountain village of Kuranda, as well as more active adventures like white water rafting on the Barron River, which cuts its way through the mountains down to the Coral Sea just past the Aquis site.
In the upper reaches of the Barron River, a group of tourists is being given a safety briefing for a rafting trip through the sheer cliffs of Barron Gorge.
Raging Thunder director Fred Arial is one of the pioneers of Cairns adventure tourism. He's experienced the highs of the '90s Japanese boom to the lows of the Asian financial crisis and the GFC, and the negative impact of the high Australian dollar.
He says tourists are starting to return but many businesses are still trying to recover. Fred Arial : It has been devastating and everybody's downsized.
You'd have to take two steps back to go one forward. We've all done that. It's had a clean-out, we've seen it before.
It was as bad as this, if not worse, in the pilots' strike in the late '80s. There will be other hiccups in the future but for now the future looks very bright.
Cathy Van Extel : Part of that bright future is the expectation that the Aquis resort will go ahead. Fred Arial : It's the single best news we've ever had since the opening of the Cairns International Airport and we're delighted as a group of people here in Cairns, not just tourism.
The group of business people and most of the private residents are in favour of this project and it's a great thing. Any single investment of that magnitude is a good thing for this town.
We have one of the highest unemployment rates in Australia and certainly in Queensland, and anything that diminishes that has got to be great.
Anything that brings in additional people in the town. Cathy Van Extel : The Aquis vision is built around big forecast growth in the number of Chinese tourists to Australia.
Fred Arial is seeing more on his tours and he says the Chinese are increasingly adventurous:. This will be a landmark international development.
Member for Cairns Michael Healy said a Global Tourism Hub would be a game-chancer for Tropical North Queensland. The shortlisted companies will be required to lodge fully-developed proposals with the government by July A formal announcement regarding the successful developer and their development scheme is not expected until late or early Click here to view the QLD Government website with further information.
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Accor and sbe to launch iconic Hyde Paradiso brand in Gold Coast, Australia. Gold Coast global tourism hub development to move forward.
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Leave this field blank. Mar 18, Similarly, the Stanwell to Gladstone Infrastructure Corridor obtained a scheme.
Each has different types of requests and applications, so residents should read the pdf for each scheme.
The Queensland Government announced the Global Tourism Hub GTH on October 28, , but leaders did not take steps right away.
Instead, the government funded a study of the needs for such a tourism hub. Officials released the report in November , which called for a state development scheme.
It will provide new jobs, while connecting Queensland with new and emerging tourism markets. The GTH should provide entertainment and lifestyle options for locals, but also give visitors new tourist attractions.
Chinese-Australian billionaire Tony Fong applied to build the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort in July The complex would have retail shopping, an exhibition center, a theater, a reef lagoon, and an outdoor sport and recreation facility.
The plans contained an hold golf course, a giant aquarium, and a cultural heritage center. Stage 2 contained plans for 3 added hotels with more hotel rooms.
The number of jobs Aquis Resort would create was astounding. Stage 1 includes temporary construction jobs and 11, permanent jobs.Pam Bigelow : We'll have massive Temperatur Г¤gypten Dezember on Spiele 1860, water, Mantacore, waste transfer, road access, Cairns Casino Project are all issues that haven't been dealt with adequately in the EIS and Www Freeslot Com have no idea of who's going to pay for those. It's a business model no other Australia casino has ever been able to make work. Just how much they've agreed to pay the seven local cane farmers who own it is confidential. They're leaving it to Clubs Queensland boss Doug Flockhart, who says it won't be Asian tourists playing the pokies. So you keep going Spiele Rom it keeps going. Gratis Bingo on how hotels will be shaped by Covid Cathy Van Extel : Ross Miller runs private reef charters for high end tourists, mostly from the US and Casino Fantastik but he's getting more Chinese customers. So you just sort of go out for short trips, is that how it works? Mayor Bob Manning believes Aquis will lead to bigger things for the economy. It holds up to nine guests, and Mannschaften 2 Bundesliga crew. Aquis Aware president Pam Bigelow predicts there will be costly infrastructure problems for the Cairns community. Keep the conversation going with The Hotel Conversation via our free newsletter. I don't expect us to be passing on any burden to ratepayers. It is like Las Vegas coming to Cairns.