Williams sells Hinchinbrook

The Australian

24 January 2006

Anthony Klan




























VETERAN Queensland property developer Keith Williams has contracted to sell his Port Hinchinbrook development - the scene of some of the highest-profile environmental battles in the country - in a structured deal expected to be worth more than $50 million.

Brisbane-based private developer Meridian will pay between $35 million and $40 million for the 200ha north Queensland development with extra payments to be made based on future sales.

Meridian managing director Russell McCart and Mr Williams last year announced plans to co-develop the site, but Mr Williams, 76, has decided to hand over full control of the site he purchased in 1993.

"I've been working about 12 hours a day seven days a week for about 60 years and I think it's about time I didn't," Mr Williams said.

"There's a few things I want to do. I'd like to build another boat and I also want to write a book and to play with my dogs."

The developer behind the Gold Coast's Seaworld and Hamilton Island said he would retain control of 26 completed lots in the Port Hinchinbrook development, worth about $17 million.

The first stage of the development secured approval in 1994 and includes a marina, boat yard and a 230-dwelling housing estate with development approval for over 200 additional dwellings.

However, Meridian is expected to face a battle gaining approval to develop the second stage of the site after the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency blocked a $200 million development plan for the 153ha parcel last September.

The EPA indicated environmental planning rules had been tightened since the "controversial" development approval for stage one of the project was granted in 1994.

The proposed second-stage development was to include a 335-block canal estate with a 26ha plastic-lined artificial lake, 60-room motel and a golf course.

Mr McCart said that the site was under "scientific investigation" and the group would hope to submit a new development application for the second stage of the development within two months.

"We haven't really done the investigations, so until we've got all the scientific data and environmental analysis we haven't really got any idea what it will turn out being," Mr McCart said.

"We will be sharing (our plans) with the EPA and the council and hopefully the three of us will end up at the same point at some time in the next eight weeks."

A spokesman for Queensland Environment Minister Desley Boyle said the department expected to receive a development application that was "significantly different" from the original proposal.

Mr McCart said the management rights to those Port Hinchinbrook dwellings in the letting pool would be rolled into hotel management business Windward Resorts, which is 50 per cent owned by Meridian.

He said that "about 80 per cent" of the 230 existing dwellings in the first stage of the development were included in the letting pool.

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