Qld Government gives green light for first stage of $4.2b Cairns casino-resort
The Queensland Government has approved the first stage of plans for a multi-billion dollar, Macau-style mega resort and casino in Cairns in the state's far north.
The $4.2 billion project, funded by Chinese billionaire Tony Fung, includes nine luxury hotels, an 18-hole golf course, a 25,000-seat sports stadium, and an international class casino to be built at Yorkeys Knob, on Cairns northern beaches.
The State Government has given the Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort "coordinated project" status, giving it a streamlined approval process.
It must now pass environmental, social and economic approvals and the project will be overseen by the coordinator-general's office.
It is expected to create more than 9,000 jobs during construction and 10,000 full-time jobs when operational.
James Packer's billion-dollar Barangaroo casino development in Sydney pales in comparison to the $4.2 billion Aquis project.
Developer Tony Fung says the resort will be a "man-made wonder" modelled on the Asian gambling hub of Macau, which will draw Chinese tourists to far north Queensland.
"I have recognised the unique suitability of the Cairns region to develop an integrated resort, based upon the Macau model," he said.
"Aquis gives Queensland an opportunity to fend off its southern and regional competitors for the increasingly important Chinese tourism market."
Community vows to fight 'ludicrous' development
But not everyone is welcoming the major development.
Jim Cadman is the reigning King of the Knob - a community elected role in the seaside township.
He says the project is like a "steamroller" in his community that poses a huge threat to the environment.
"Most people are incredulous. Most people are completely blown away and amazed that such a ludicrous development could happen in such a pristine environmental area," he said.
He says the project has the potential to threaten a number of local industries.
"It just seems like no one's done any homework, we've got beach erosion concerns, we've got environmental fishery concerns, we've got flood mitigation concerns - I think nearly every hotel and golf course in Cairns would object to having five more hotels and a golf course," he said.
Mr Cadman says the community is prepared to fight the development.
"You're not coming up against people in beach shacks, you're coming up against a highly organised bunch of people who love their township and like it the way it is and we haven't been consulted," he said.
Anna McGuire from the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre says she too is concerned about the potential impacts.
"It will be a very significant challenge to do a development of that scale without having impacts on the reef."
However the resort's developers says the land earmarked for the project is an operational cane farm, which means the land is already significantly degraded.
Development will 'put Cairns on the map'
Barron River MP Michael Trout says the proposed resort and casino would put Cairns on the map internationally.
Mr Trout says he has spoken with the developer and trusts the project will be a success.
"It will truly make us an international destination again," Mr Trout said.
"[The developer] said to me 'I will do this if the people of Cairns want it, if the people of Queensland want it, and if the governments want it - I will do this'."
However, Griffith University lecturer Paul Williams says the public should be sceptical about the timing of the announcement.
"Politicians do of course say all sorts of things around election time. but if this does come off - $4.2 billion - these are eye-glazing figures for a single part of Queensland," he said.
"North Queenslanders should rightly be excited about this.
"This is obviously going to be huge to the region, for tourism, for jobs in general.
"I think north Queenslanders have the right to be excited about this, but at the same time remain sceptical."