The Point Leisure Group has been granted the go-ahead to plan a $100-million dollar redevelopment of the heritage Quarantine Station site at Point Nepean, Victoria. Set within National Park, the proposal is for a health resort including luxury accommodation, a geothermal bathhouse, hot pools and a conference centre.
The project is the first to be granted approval under a Coalition Government plan to allow private developments in national parks under 99-year leases as a means of increasing tourism in the reserve areas.
National Parks Association of Victoria spoke out against the proposal, saying there were too many unanswered questions, including how long a lease will actually be granted, how much rent would be paid for the site and what the development would mean for broader public use and access to the station.
“We are concerned with the developers creating a private enclave for exclusive use within what is a public park,” Victorian NPA executive director Matt Ruchel told The Fifth Estate.
“While the development may look appropriate, if it is under a 99-year lease that is 25 election cycles, and there is no guarantee it will stay that way. There is also a risk of infrastructure creep.
“And there is a whole question about the financial relationships. Where will the lease money go? Will it go back to the park management? Will it just be peppercorn rent? And what value does the development have for park management?”
Mr Ruchel also raised the question of the payment of a bond by the developer, and said that in the US best practice is for a bond equivalent to the investment of capital to be lodged. In this case, that would amount to $100 million in bond.
While Point Leisure Group have been nominated as preferred developers by the Victorian government, detailed planning is yet to be completed and the project will still require approval by Mornington Shire Council.
Another project planned for Point Nepean is the University of Melbourne National Centre for Coasts and Climate. This project has been on the drawing board since 2007, when agreements were drawn up between the University, the Commonwealth Government and the Point Nepean Community Trust for a combination of laboratory, teaching and accommodation facilities. The trust was to contribute $7 million towards the construction costs, the Commonwealth to provide at least $2.1 million to provide facilities rent-free for seven years, and also Commonwealth support for 110 fully-funded student places.
The centre’s plan is to incorporate undergraduate, postgraduate coursework and postgraduate research projects.