Saviour for Port Douglas

The new owner of the Sheraton Mirage last week announced a bold plan to revive the dying Port Douglas tourist industry but it does depend on state and federal assistance.

David Marriner presented his far-reaching vision to about 200 people ending six months of speculation as to what he would do with his Sheraton Mirage acquisition. His proposal, that hinges on $18 million each funding from the state and federal governments over five years for infrastructure development, received an overwhelmingly supportive response from the Port Douglas tourism industry. The government money will go towards commercial infrastructure, not resort refurbishments.

The colourful Melbourne property developer and theatre mogul, with an unknown Chinese investor, snapped up the Sheraton Mirage for $35 million late last year. The 294-room resort was expected to fetch $50 million. Christopher Skase built the five-star resort on Four Mile Beach in 1987 for $100 million.

AN29-4-DN-sheraton-mirage1A harbour-front resort, a modernised golf course and a boutique shopping plaza form part of a developer’s $120 million plan to revive Port Douglas as a leading world-class holiday haven.

The key to the whole revival will be to turn the tired complex into a world-class Westin resort with luxury yacht moorings, a boutique retail centre and redesigned golf course. Architect Stuart Shakespeare, of DBI, who designed the original resort, has been invited back to assist in the re-design. Redevelopment is expected to take two years to complete but Mr Marriner said planning applications are almost ready to go as soon as the state and federal governments commit to funding $18 million each over five years.

Stage one of the redevelopment will see the refurbishment of the resort’s public areas and rooms, construction of a Great Barrier Reef Arts and Exhibition Forum and an upgrade of the amphitheatre turning it into a unique arts space.

Mr Marriner stressed the project would only move go ahead if the government funding is approved but has outlined significant performance guarantees including one million delegates over the five-year agreement and $10 million a year in payroll tax. As security for the governments’ investment, he is offering a $10 million performance bond and the reassurance public money will be the last into the project.

However, Mr Marriner said Queensland premier Anna Bligh was “too busy” to discuss his ideas, despite months of trying to organise a meeting. He said he had met federal regional development minister Simon Crean in Canberra and opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey was at the meeting in Port Douglas when Mr Marriner unveiled his plan.

It is understood that Ms Bligh wrote to Mr Marriner after he met her director general, rejecting the developer’s plea for financial support. The relationship between Mr Marriner and the Queensland government soured in 2009 after the government dropped its support for a proposal to build an international airport at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays.

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