Plug pulled on multi-million dollar development


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The site of the proposed retirement village in Port Douglas. IMAGES: Supplied.

PLANS for a Port Douglas retirement village on Ferrero Road received a major setback today when the developers, Waks Development, pulled the plug.

And Port Douglas-based Councillor Michael Kerr, who has been a strong supporter of the village and recently voted against the Town Plan because the retirement village was not appropriately addressed in the plan, told Newsport this is an unfortunate decision.

“As is well known, I have been a strong proponent and the project was a major part of my platform when I ran for councillor. I am therefore disappointed at today’s announcement.

“But I can understand that this is a business decision and it was no longer viable for Waks Development to press ahead. I hope someone else comes forward and purchases a piece of land that could house a retirement village, something that is required in the shire,” said Kerr.

The proposed $60 million retirement village, which would have been built by Waks Development, would have seen land off Ferrero Road transformed into a 160-strong villa community along with a gym, swimming pool, lush gardens, cafes and entertaining areas for people over 50.

A number of caveats have stood in the way since day one. The land is still zoned as rural and would need to be included in an urban zone for any development to take place. Under the current planning scheme it is still zoned as rural.

Mayor Julia Leu has been firm in her opposition against any development west of the highway and has had strong backing from Councillors David Carey and Roy Zammataro.

Their belief has been if the retirement village was approved, it would open a can of worms for more development from Craiglie to the IGA in Port Douglas, going against the traditional green values of the Shire.

Developer Steve Thomas said he is disappointed he has had to make the call.

“This has been a passion of mine and I personally wanted to see it happen. But I am also a realist and if the environment is not right, then so be it,” he told Newsport.

Thomas said although there had been progress – he has been driving it for 10 years – there would still be a long road ahead had he continued his quest to make it happen.

“I am not getting any younger and there is no certainty how long it would take for this to eventuate. It could take, three, five or eight years and we would have spent an additional $1.5m in the process, and there is still no guarantee of it going ahead.

“Our aim was always to provide an affordable retirement option for locals. Under the current circumstances, we will not be able to deliver the quality retirement homes at the price levels we had hoped for, due to the time frames and costs we would have to face,” said Thomas.

Thomas, who has been developing projects in the shire for the past 20 years, said he appreciated the time taken by council officers to discuss the project with his company, and thanked the community for its ongoing support.

“Now, after 10 years exploring options to provide affordable retirement living at Ferrero Road, we have reached the end. It is our sincere hope that someone similarly motivated by our site, and passionate about the Douglas Shire, will be able to continue the process,” he said.

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