A NEW coastal city, with scope for a Disney-sized theme park, education, housing, retail and commercial space has been proposed between Brisbane and the Gold Coast under a historic deal between the owners of 248 properties.
A parcel of sugarcane land more than 10 times the size of Surfers Paradise, bordered by the M1, Moreton Bay and two rivers, is on the market, with sellers hoping to achieve a national land sales record, likely to be well over $1 billion.
The site in the Norwell Valley would become Australia’s largest masterplanned city, triple the land size of Ipswich’s Greater Springfield which is projected to house 105,000 people by 2030.
The 40 landowners in the deal — many of them cane farmers — see the sale of the 6117 hectares as a dignified end for the area’s industry, which has been struggling to maintain viable supply to the Rocky Point Mill.
Prospective buyers of the valley would become its master planners, co-ordinating government approvals and engaging major residential and other developers to deliver the extensive infrastructure required — with up to a third of the area proposed to be designated green space.
The deal between owners was struck by Global Enterprise Management Solutions, which was formed by architect Rob Machon and stockbroker Wayne Cummins, who have both moved to the Gold Coast from Sydney.
A statement released by Canford Property, which is running the sales campaign, said agents had already spoken to “some of China’s largest developers and theme park operators who want to unseat Disney and develop one of world’s largest theme parks on the Gold Coast”.
One of China’s richest people Wang Jianlin has made no secret of his ambitions to take Disney’s worldwide theme park crown through his Wanda Group, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk met with Mr Wang about investing in Queensland last year.
Wanda is already building the Jewel development at southern Surfers Paradise and has various other landholdings in the city.
Government approvals and zoning changes are likely to be one of many potential hurdles for the project, which could take more than a decade to reach fruition. It took 22 years for Greater Springfield to go ahead, and it required the State Government to created specific legislation for its development.
The area is zoned rural under the Gold Coast City Plan, which was approved by the State last year and specifically aims to ensure land uses “do not interfere, encroach or impact on the city’s sugar cane growing, particularly in the Woongoolba/Norwell areas and the Rocky Point Sugar Mill”.
The council is understood to be studying alternative uses for caneland under the City Plan 2015, with a view for submitting changes to the State within 12 months.
State Government reps were briefed on project on Monday, while it already has the backing of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, who said it had the potential to become an Orlando-style tourist drawcard.
“We are talking about an expansion of the Yatala enterprise area, the southward expansion of the aquaculture industry from the northeastern corner, and primarily an expansion of the tourism, recreation and entertainment offerings,” he said in the agent’s statement.
“The secondary opportunities of education sector expansion and silicon valley-type activity is particularly exciting to me.
“Development can’t be piecemeal — that would never work given the flood and drainage challenges.
“Some landowners would win, some would lose, and there would be many in between.”
Canford managing director Roland Evans said he had already had discussions with Australian and foreign companies about buying the land.
“What we’re looking for is someone who’s got the ability to do the master planning for this, because it’s such a massive concept,” he said.
“Effectively it closes the gap between the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
“It will be a major grower of jobs, homes and work — it’s a whole new town effectively.”
HOW THE DEAL WAS DONE
GOLF was the unlikely catalyst that lead two men to convince 40 landowners to drive for an Australian-record land deal.
Architect Rob Machon, who “retired” to the Gold Coast from Sydney’s northern beaches 12 years ago, met fellow former Sydneysider and stockbroker Wayne Cummins by chance on the fairways of Sanctuary Cove and the pair became friends.
But it was a third golfing mate, cane farmer Arthur Fiumini, whose idea a year ago would eventually lead to today’s announcement.
FARMERS’ LONG BATTLE TO SECURE A FUTURE
NORTHERN Gold Coast sugar production would not immediately cease, but would taper off over a number of years if the 6117ha Norwell Valley land package is sold for development.
Much of the 2016 crop is still in the fields as the Rocky Point Mill lies idle due to a power failure, with parts sent off for expensive repairs.
LAND OFFER FOR SECOND M1
THE joining of major tracts of land in the Norwell Valley could fast-track a duplication of the congested M1, which is currently not expected before 2031.
Former Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney worked to remove the Intra-Regional Transport Corridor while considering the Gold Coast’s Draft City Plan 2015 — but it was reinstated by the Labor Government this year.
Originally published Gold Coast Bulletin 1 September 2016