Hinchinbrook sale possible

The Australian

Hinchinbrook sale possible

29 March 2006

Anthony Klan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Australian

Hinchinbrook sale possible
Anthony Klan
29mar06

KEITH Williams has again left the door open for new sale negotiations on his Port Hinchinbrook development in north Queensland after the January sale agreement with Meridien collapsed on Monday.

The veteran developer is having trouble releasing the reins to one of the country's most environmentally controversial projects. He and his son Ben had contracted to sell the Port Hinchinbrook resort to Russell McCart's Meridien in a staggered deal worth $50 million, but pulled out seven days before the sale was expected to settle.

Negotiations collapsed after the parties could not agree on a revised development plan for the 152ha of land earmarked for the second and final stage of the project. The Queensland Environmental Protection Authority refused an original plan for a $200 million, 335-block canal estate last September. It is the second time in less than two years that Williams Corporation has withdrawn from advanced negotiations to sell the resort. In May 2004 Mr Williams said the property would be sold to Craig Gore, son of late Gold Coast developer Mike Gore, for about $23 million. Just 17 days later, Mr Williams terminated the sale. Ben Williams said the latest deal with Meridien had been terminated because negotiations were taking too long and Williams Corporation wanted to proceed with development of the site as quickly as possible. He said the group could re-enter sales negotiations with Meridien in future, or sell the asset to other developers. Meridien's Russell McCart was not available for comment. The Port Hinchinbrook development has been dogged by controversy in the 12 years since it was approved. In 1994 the Commonwealth forbade Mr Williams from clearing mangroves for the development. But he brought in lights and bulldozers ahead of the formal serving of stop-work orders by a local policeman at 3am. Mr Williams' plans for the future of the site have varied widely in recent years. After pulling out from the deal to sell Port Hinchinbrook to Mr Gore in June 2004, Mr Williams said he would not sell the asset but would instead hold it and develop it in-house.

When announcing a new deal with Meridien last year, Mr Williams reportedly said he would "under no circumstances" sell the entire resort. But in January he said it would be sold to Meridien.

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