People living near the site of a planned $4.2 billion mega-resort and casino in Cairns say it will turn off travellers who come to the region to experience nature-based tourism.
Hundreds of locals turned out to a community meeting in Cairns on Wednesday night to raise concerns about Chinese billionaire Tony Fung’s proposed Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort.
The 340-hectare resort and casino at Yorkeys Knob, a northern seaside suburb of Cairns, includes nine luxury hotels and a casino.
There will also be an 18-hole golf course, a 25,000 seat stadium and a cultural heritage centre.
Locals say they’re concerned the project won’t withstand a cyclone, will increase problem gambling, may damage the Great Barrier Reef and could hurt the region’s nature-based tourism industry.
“We have the best to offer in tropical and nature-based experiences in all of Australia,” James Cook University student and Aquis Aware founder Mathilde Gordon said.
“The Aquis resort could be built anywhere…. but the World Heritage area that Cairns boasts can not and the values and lifestyles which depend on these natural wonders are irrepealable.”
Former MP for Barron River Lesley Clark said the development would narrow, not diversify the region’s tourism industry.
Professor Jon Nott of JCU’s Earth and Environmental Science department says the project’s location is “extremely dangerous” as it would be exposed to inundation during tropical cyclones.
The resort would sit 400 metres inland.
A number of people at the meeting acknowledged the project would bring much-needed jobs to the region, but said there were no guarantees the 9000 construction jobs and 10,000 full-time jobs would go to locals.
Mr Fung has said the resort would rival great man-made structures seen in Dubai and Singapore and would attract big spenders from China.
He’s also said construction wouldn’t impact the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
The project must pass environmental, social and economic approval processes, which are overseen by the coordinator-general’s office, before construction can begin.
It would be built by 2018 if approved.