OPINION: Is Port Douglas retirement village now a pipe dream?


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The site of the proposed retirement village on Ferrero Road, which has had its plans pulled by the developers. IMAGE: Supplied.

THE decision by developer Waks Development to shelve its plans for a retirement village in Port Douglas has been greeted with huge disappointment and the real fear now is that a project of this nature is dead and buried.

What was once a passion for developer Steve Thomas, is now just another set of plans that will occupy space, gather dust and be forgotten.

The big losers are Port Douglas, the contractors, suppliers and the economy as a whole. And while many are still absorbing the decision by Thomas to pull the plug, there is little, if any, likelihood of other developers lining up to follow Thomas.

It took 10 painstaking years for Thomas to come to this decision, so you have to wonder if another developer/s would want to endure the same.

The conclusion is therefore clear: the chances of a retirement village being developed in Port Douglas are remote. It’s that plain and simple.

What is also clear is that large sections of the Port Douglas community are equally disappointed. When Newsport broke the story yesterday, comments flowed in with the majority viewing this as a “wasted opportunity”, “bad news for local tradesmen, suppliers and the community”, “short-sighted”, a “shame” and an “absolute tragedy”.

And Councillor Michael Kerr, one of the key drivers behind the project, said today he had received countless calls from people expressing their displeasure, while some were already prepared to put down a deposit for a unit.

So where has this gone wrong? After all, this is a project that should be a no-brainer in an ageing population; and one that would have benefited Port Douglas in so many ways.

The majority of the councillors argued that if the retirement village was approved, it would have opened a can of worms for more development from Craiglie to the IGA in Port Douglas, which would have gone against the traditional green values of the Shire.

This is a non-argument with no substance. Proposed developments need appropriate approvals so how can this “open a can of worms for more development”?

We can reluctantly accept that Council does not want development west of the highway. And when Council did suggest alternative sites to Steve Thomas’ Waks Development, they were deemed unsuitable. And Council will understandably use this in their favour.

We can also accept that Council is not against a retirement village, but how hard have they pushed for it? As hard as they are pushing for a new site for Paws and Claws? Mayor Julia Leu is reported to have approached the Queensland premier on this issue, so it’s clearly a matter she wants resolved.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

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