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Chinese owners hope to get $30m for Whitsunday island

By Ray White Whitsunday

Larry Schlesinger | Reporter

The Chinese owners of South Molle Island in the Whitsundays are looking to cash in on the wave of fresh high net worth capital targeting tropical islands on the Great Barrier Reef after putting it on the market with price hopes of more than $30 million.

Shanghai-based conglomerate China Capital Investment Group, led by Chuanyou Zhou, paid $25 million in 2016 for the leaseholds to 28 hectares of beachfront and island centre land and had plans to develop a new resort and residential estate on South Molle.

However, as with many ambitious plans to revive island resorts, these have failed to materialise – to date CCIG has only redeveloped the jetty – leaving it to the next owner to create a bankable tourism destination after the previous 188-room Adventure Island Whitsunday resort was destroyed by a cyclone in 2017.

CCIG also owns Daydream Island Resort just to the west of South Molle, which it purchased for about $30 million in 2015.

CBRE Hotels’ Wayne Bunz, who is steering the sales campaign alongside colleagues Raymond Tran and Tom Gibson, said CCIG had decided to put South Molle on the market after fielding a number of off-market approaches.

“They believe they can get more for it and have decided to test the market,” Mr Bunz told The Australian Financial Review.

CCIG will be selling at a time of heightened interest in tropical islands, led by a new cohort of local billionaires and high net worth investors. These include Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes who bought Dunk Island last year for $24 million and Andrew and Nicola Forrest who purchased Lizard Island in November 2021 for $42 million. Both couples have since separated.

More recent acquisitions include Lindeman Island, which was bought for about $10 million in April by Singaporean hotel owner Well Smart Group.

Currently, 3.14ha Victor Island off the coast of Mackay is being sold by receivers following the collapse of Sydney developer Kingdom Group (which paid $3.7 million March last year), while property developer Doug Gamble is having another go at selling Fitzroy Island Resort near Cairns, which has an asking price of about $35 million.

Renowned for its pristine white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and secluded bays, South Molle Island is the largest island in the Molle Group archipelago and is one of the closest major islands to the mainland and the resort town of Airlie Beach.

Mr Tran said an incoming investor could develop South Molle Island into a luxury resort similar to Qualia at Hamilton Island, or add boutique villas or glamping sites.

“The current owners have also undertaken a $10 million redevelopment of the jetty, to allow for marine vessels to drop off and pick up island visitors, given its popularity as a Whitsunday’s destination for multiple yacht charters,” he said.

The 28 hectares of land at South Molle are accessed via the north-facing sheltered alcove of Bauer Bay, which is popular with sailing yachts and catamarans.

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