Mr Wang explains Chinatown delays
LANGUAGE and cultural barriers have been just some of the problems Raymond Wang has encountered in proceeding with a Chinatown development in Airlie Beach.
As president of the Chinese Australia Entrepreneurs Association Inc, Mr Wang explained his role from the onset had been to facilitate between Chinese investors and Whitsunday Regional Council to move the $300 million project ahead.
Mr Wang has subsequently been "in the background" of Whitsunday Chinatown Pty Ltd, the company that successfully tendered to buy a parcel of land on Waterson Way for $2.5 million in December 2014.
At the time of announcing the sale Mayor Jennifer Whitney said it was written into the contract that once the development was approved and the development lease signed, the developer would have a maximum of three years to construct, with substantial works to be undertaken by March 2016.
Fast forward to today and with the exception of a fence and some light poles, nothing much has changed on the site, but as Mr Wang explained this week there's been plenty happening behind the scenes.
With an article titled "Shang-Highed" appearing in the Sunday Mail, Mr Wang called a press conference this week to explain his version of events.
Through an interpreter, he said he had been buying land and property in Australia for several years and had never been asked for a bank guarantee.
He said when this is what happened with the land on Waterson Way, the investors who were behind Chinatown backed out.
Mr Wang also said it was not made known to him at the tender stage the land couldn't be settled until after approval of the development application.
Nonetheless, even though he considers these two terms "unfair" and wants to negotiate with the council to change them, he says its a matter of honour that as president of the CAEAI he must keep his promises.
Mr Wang said he had, in the past, written to the council about the issues of waiving a bank guarantee and settling the land, but had not received a response until last week.
He said the letter he received from the council said he needed to stick to the terms and conditions of the contract.
Cr Whitney said yesterday she had received a letter requesting a meeting between the councillors and Mr Wang "and we will be arranging that as soon as possible".
Meanwhile Mr Wang outlined other delays that were still two to three months away from being resolved - most notably the finalising of a design.
He said Chinatown was a big project and it was important for him to get it right from the start, with the design needing to be iconic, hence his plan for a high-rise building, the top two floors of which could potentially become a revolving restaurant.
Mr Wang said there was ongoing improvement on Hamilton and Daydream Islands.
"Why should they have it?" he asked.
"If Airlie Beach does not improve itself, essentially we will be left behind."
As for the height restrictions, Mr Wang is still pushing for eight storeys and would build 12 if he could.
"And if Whitsunday Regional Council's thinking or policy is not allowing Airlie Beach to have any building exceeding eight storeys then it is unreasonable and outdated," he said.
He also made the comparison with the city of Dubai, saying this started out as a fishing village.
And to those who may be critical of what he proposes for the site: "If someone can do better then let that be," he said.