Monday 10 March 2008

False Cape, false hope

Simon Lloyd at Smart Company writes about the Fale Cape disaster.
  • Queensland is one helluva place to invest in property, and Queenslanders as a bunch are pretty laid-back when it comes to property development.

    I mean, imagine if Byron Bay was just a smidgin further north! Hey, if that little spot was in Queensland, there’d be a dozen or so high-rise apartment blocks looming over the town beach and the pristine hinterland cherished so dearly by rich New South Welsh hippies would be, by now, a colourful landscape of Colourbond roofing.

    But not all developments north of the Tweed go without at least some form of protest, and that’s what’s happening with a little-known resort and housing proposal at a place called False Cape, just across Trinity Inlet from Cairns city centre.

    Why the fuss? A bloke called John Ewens, whose Gold Coast-based development company Starline Holdings sounds more like a cheap haberdashery chain or a cut-price cruise outfit, has decided to build 123 residential allotments and a resort hotel. Not much wrong with that, I hear many of you say.

    The protestors, at first largely comprising the usual green suspects, are up in arms over the location of the development, a steep hillslope that is – for now at least – mostly virgin bushland and, surprise, surprise, untouched beach. They’re outraged that if this subdivision is opened up, the inevitable roofscape will be a blot visible from everywhere along the newly beautified Cairns Esplanade.

    With damage to views as one of their catchcries, the tree-hugging objectors are trying, sadly with limited success so far, to woo some unlikely bedfellows in the shape of millionaires. This exclusive mob have bought deluxe waterview apartments in the Harbourlights complex, a marina and high-rise project developed by Skyrail magnate George Chapman. If False Cape goes ahead – and thus far Peter Beattie has shrugged and said there’s nothing he can do, so don’t watch his space with no election looming – the view from Harbourlights will be severely sullied.

    Trouble is, so far the wealthy protestors’ outcry has only been heard as far as the trendy coffee shops of Edge Hill, while the halls of local and state governments have been spared hordes of Gucci-wielding penthouse denizens (they’re a bit too preoccupied buying homewares from Samsara to start petitioning the Premier).

    Ewens, meanwhile, will leave the selling of the housing blocks, once he’s flattened them, to some unfortunate, yet-to-be-anointed sales company. Whoever that ends up being will face the unenviable task not just of facing down the protests, which promise to continue ad infinitum, but also convincing anybody to actually go and live in the damn place.

    Why? One little detail Ewens is not making a peep about: because of the configuration of the Cairns inlet floodplain and the surrounding road access, new residents of False Cape will have to drive more than 30 kilometres to get to the nearest shopping mall … and that’s a more hideous prospect than the earth Ewens is doggedly scorching.

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