SOURCE: The Cairns Post 17 Sep 2015
Business and community leaders are hoping that plans by Aquis to spend $330 million on redeveloping the Canberra casino will provide the impetus for a restart of the stalled Yorkeys Knob venture.
Aquis proponents Tony and Justin Fung have revealed details of a new casino and resort-style entertainment, dining and retail precinct in the nation’s capital. Cairns mayor Bob Manning said the Fungs were still committed to their $8.15 billion investment at Yorkeys Knob announced three years ago.
“The people have the capability, they have the desire, they have the will to invest, spread around Australia,” he said.
“The great pity is that now we have the Gold Coast and Canberra running ahead of Cairns when Cairns should have been ahead of both of those cities.
“It’s clear to me that Aquis do have a broad-based plan for Australia. We are missing out on the start but we are going to be the flagship.”
Cr Manning said the Queensland Government appeared to be showing “more interest and more commitment” to Yorkeys Knob.
“But we need to get moving or it could slip away,” he said.
Advance Cairns chief executive Mark Matthews said the Canberra plans proved the Fungs’ commitment to Australian tourism investment.
“We hear that the Queensland Government is committed to the Cairns project at Yorkeys Knob, and we call on the Queensland Government to finalise arrangements to see the project move ahead without further delay,” he said.
The two-stage Canberra proposal, including two high-end hotels, a 3300sq m convention centre extension, a dining, entertainment and luxury retail precinct and 420 operational and 200 construction jobs, is contingent on poker machines, currently banned in ACT casinos.
Aquis and the Queensland Government are continuing to negotiate approvals for the Yorkeys Knob project.
OPINION by The Cairns Post’s Julian Tomlinson:
State Government red tape is killing Aquis
DREAM GONE? So much development and investment in Cairns and FNQ appears to be relying on Aquis to provide the catalyst. But the $8.15 project is being caught up in red tape. Source: Supplied
STATE Governments – past and present – should be sanctioned in the harshest terms for the almost insulting ways they have handled the proposed Aquis project.
So much development and investment in the city – even the whole Far North – appears to be relying on Aquis to provide the catalyst.
Add to this the rivers of money flowing on the Gold Coast and Canberra, where Aquis proponents the Fung family, have established Australian bases.
The Fungs have sponsored the Gold Coast Titans NRL club, the ACT Brumbies Super Rugby club, and have now announced a $330 million redevelopment of the Canberra casino.
It is fair to say this is money that would definitely have been spent on the Cairns casino and on Cairns and other Far Northern sports teams.
But instead of smoothing the way for a mega-rich and obviously generous investor, both the LNP and ALP have hidden behind red tape to make the Fungs feel about as welcome in Cairns as a croc at a swimming hole.
If the seemingly endless background checks do find the Fungs to be unsuitable investors, then the delays will be justified.
But if Canberra could complete such probity checks in weeks, why is it taking Queensland years to finalise its approvals?
And the delays aren’t just making Cairns businesspeople frustrated and nervous.
News from Innisfail this week is that the developer of a huge Ella Bay resort is sweating on Aquis getting over the line to give investors enough confidence to plough money into his project.
If there were any other major infrastructure projects happening in Cairns at the moment, Aquis’s approval wouldn’t be as important.
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Jason Thomson | Finance Broker and Mortgage Adviser | Smartline Cairns