Plans are now on the table for sleepy waterfront precinct to be transformed

Published Tuesday 15 December 2015

At the next Ordinary Council Meeting to be held on December 16th (tomorrow), The Reef Marina Regeneration Master Plan is on the Agenda to be presented for Pre Lodgement Enquiry (PLE) for consideration and comments by Council.


History has shown that the Port Douglas waterfront has been one of the most talked about and sought after redevelopment areas in the Douglas Shire.

There is no denying that magnificent waterfronts should take pride of place in any community,  they are fundamental to tourism.  In the Douglas Shire there is no disputing we possess the best natural assets that deserve this accolade.  Therefore, with such a significant piece of waterfront in Port Douglas it is no surprise it needs to be handled with kid gloves.

The Reef Marina property owners and developers Andrew Hooper-Nguyen and Chris Ellis advise they are different to previous owners and, after less than two years, can demonstrate what they have achieved with the Marina so far.

“We are not just here as property developers, we love Port Douglas and the marina.

“With previous property developers their business model was to buy the marina and develop the land which was completely reliant on economic conditions.  Our approach was to buy the marina, spend money to rejuvenate it and then later commence the waterfront regeneration, and we have clear evidence to support this,” said Mr Hooper-Nguyen.

During the development of The Reef Marina Master Plan, Mr Hooper-Nguyen advised they ensured the Port Douglas Waterfront Master Plan guiding principles were taken into consideration. 

“We have tried to deliver something that is consistent with community expectations by finding the right balance with public amenity as well as an economically viable project for both the community and the developers,” he said.

With The Reef Marina Master Plan now up for PLE, it is now up to Council to respond and comment on the project. After which, the developers will take these comments into consideration before submitting a formal Master Plan.

The vision of The Reef Marina Master Plan is to create a vibrant marina precinct incorporating public amenity while providing strong connections between the marina, a working fisherman’s wharf and the town centre and at the same time celebrate the Shire’s character and heritage that makes Port Douglas so special.

Some of the main development principles to be proposed are an iconic Arbour Park providing pedestrian connection between the marina and Port Douglas Town Centre.  A continuous Water Walk offering a unique over-water experience.  A waterfront Public Plaza will serve as an entertainment and lifestyle hub.  An integrated public art strategy will engage visitors and the community in the rich Port Douglas historical narrative.

The Mater Plan strategies will promote Wharf Street as the logical “main point of arrival” as the most direct route, providing extensive water and hinterland views which will place Port Douglas firmly “on the water” for the first time visitor.  At the same time connecting the marina with the town centre.

“Connectivity is the key principle strategy,” said Hooper-Nguyen.

“Currently there is disjointed development and connection will improve this.  The Arbour Park connection will provide a direct line of sight from the new marina entrance to Wharf Street. We will be retaining certain features of the original marina building to retain fluidity.”

As the biggest investment that has been currently proposed in Port Douglas, the developers state that they are not here to “muck around” they are committed to the project.

Providing mixed dwelling residential and commercial spaces, they are committed to achieving the right balance.

“It’s not about creating surplus commercial space it is about creating active street edges not passive street edges,” said Hooper-Nguyen.

Having met with Douglas Shire Council, Mr Hooper-Nguyen said Council understands the importance of this project and is confident they will be supportive.

A meeting was scheduled with the fishing community including commercial trawler operators, representatives of the commercial fishermen's association and the Port Douglas Waterfront Protection Society and other stakeholders, to discuss the development of the Fishermen’s Wharf precinct.

“The meeting unanimously concluded that there is general support for our proposal to develop a fishermen's wharf precinct along Wharf Street adjacent to Closehaven Marina,” said Hooper-Nguyen.

Consultation is also currently taking place by the public arts consultants, who have been involved from the beginning, engaging local stakeholders to develop the Port Douglas narrative.

The development, to be proposed in stages, has the potential to have a massive impact on local economy says Mr Hooper-Nguyen.

“It will offer more amenity for visitors, food and beverage hubs, it will be lively and exciting.  As well as offering more employment.  There will also be opportunity to use the space for local artists as a stage,” he said.

The developers have made it quite clear they should be taken serious.

“We are not just talking about this development.  What should have happened never happened, but now is the opportunity to realise the dream,” said Hooper-Nguyen.