Bowen's Whitsunday Paradise Development was given the green light from the council today. Picture: Supplied
Bowen's Whitsunday Paradise Development was given the green light from the council today. Picture: Supplied

$1.1b Bowen housing estate gets council tick of approval

A LONG-AWAITED $1.1 billion housing estate in Bowen was given the green light in council today.

The Whitsunday Paradise estate will be a masterplanned community with 2000 houses for up to 5000 people, boosting the Bowen population by 50 per cent of what it is today.

Councillors unanimously supported the preliminary approval for the layout of the whole site and the development approvals for stage three of the project at the ordinary meeting in Proserpine today.

The estate will include a commercial centre, sports fields, parks, a service centre with food outlets and the potential for tourist accommodation.

Mayor Andrew Willcox said the project had been "a long time coming" but that it would be "a good outcome all around".

The project has come across many hurdles before today's approval and Whitsunday Regional Council's manager of development assessments Doug Mackay said he was initially "puzzled about the demand" of the project.

The Whitsunday Paradise estate will be a masterplanned community with 2000 houses for up to 5000 people, boosting the Bowen population by 50 per cent of what it is today. Picture: Supplied
The Whitsunday Paradise estate will be a masterplanned community with 2000 houses for up to 5000 people, boosting the Bowen population by 50 per cent of what it is today. Picture: Supplied

The site was already zoned as an integrated estate, therefore the applicants did not have to demonstrate a need for the development.

"One of the concerns I know the council has expressed is the rate at which new lots might come on the market and the effect that might have on the existing residential market in Bowen," Mr Mackay said.

"The applicant has proposed they be sub-staged, so they aren't advocating that all of stage three happen at once."

Mr Mackay said there would be seven substages with about 20 residential blocks put on the market at a time.

He said there were also concerns over the clearing of the site and that the council would push for staged construction.

The estate will eventually include shops, sporting fields and a childcare centre. Picture: Supplied
The estate will eventually include shops, sporting fields and a childcare centre. Picture: Supplied

While he said this might be economically inefficient for developers, Mr Mackay argued dust issues and erosion needed to be taken into account to maintain the Bowen environment.

Division 2 councillor Al Grundy echoed these concerns, saying water run-off to the reef should also be a major consideration in the staggered development.

Division 4 councillor Michelle Wright said this was the biggest decision to come across the council table since she started her role.

"It has been quite a long process and it's been a process that we've had to undertake because we don't want the ratepayers to fund this," she said.

"A few of my concerns in the beginning was that there are so many blocks of land, and there's over 430 blocks of land for sale in Bowen at the minute.

"I didn't want it devaluing Bowen."

The proposed Whitsunday Paradise development could bring a critical boost for the economy post COVID-19. Image: Supplied.
The proposed Whitsunday Paradise development could bring a critical boost for the economy post COVID-19. Image: Supplied.

However, Cr Wright hoped that with several big projects for Bowen in the pipeline, the new estate would cater to demand as more people moved into the region.

Now the council has approved the development, the applicants can seek a negotiated decision notice. This would give them the opportunity to discuss conditions with the council.

If there are any disagreements over the conditions, the development could be taken on appeal to the Queensland Planning and Environment Court.

Greater Rewards Group general manager Blake Thomas hoped preliminary works on the first stage would begin before December with a call for tenders on about $40 million of infrastructure upgrades.

"The infrastructure works, which will include improvements to the Bruce Highway and to Bowen's water and sewerage system, will alone create 84 jobs for the Bowen region,'' he said.

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"The Whitsunday Paradise is a 20-year commitment for our team, and we will be a long-term partner in the growth of the Bowen region.

"The development will contribute $1.129 billion to the regional economy across the 10 stages of the project."

The site of the development was previously earmarked for another housing estate, however during the Global Financial Crisis those plans were abandoned.

GRW Group lodged an application with the state government and the council for the project in June 2018.