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Whitsunday councillors receive Airlie Beach hotel report

By Ki Ki Taylor

WHITSUNDAY Regional Councillors have unanimously voted to receive the Norling Feasability Study into hotel demand in Airlie Beach – but this does not promise the adoption of what’s included, Mayor Andrew Willcox said.

The report examines future visitation to the Whitsunday region and the market demand for a premium hotel within Airlie Beach.

Stage one of this report saw Airlie Beach required to provide an additional 3000 rooms between 2014/15 and 2019/20.

Of that, a 200-room premium hotel was expected to achieve 65% occupancy rates five years after opening.

The Norling Study has considered locating a premium hotel in four potential sites including Port of Airlie, Waterson Way, Abell Point Marina and 2-10 Coconut Grove.

Councillor for Division 6, Mike Brunker was the first to stand at this morning’s meeting in Proserpine, acknowledging the study as a “hot issue” in the community in terms of building heights.

“We asked developers to produce an analysis to back their submissions and I see this is a very prudent report,” he said, adding “whether we agree on it or not is a different story”.

Cr Brunker was at pains to reiterate “it’s a study, it’s a public document”.

“We receive it and we decide if we want to do anything or not – it’s advice,” he said.

Mayor Willcox said it was important the community understood the receiving of the report did not mean the adoption of its contents.

“The reason they’re (studies) coming to the table is, unless it’s strictly confidential, every report council and ratepayers pay for will be made public,” he said.

“If the ratepayers pay for it, they’re entitled to the information.”

Cr Willcox said councillors were entitled to choose to extract information out of reports in order to make decisions but they were not the only sources council used.

“We have a highly skilled planning department and we’ve opened up the realm to community consultation,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone should be alarmed but grateful that under this new council, we’re opening this up.”

In the economic section of the Norling study it was found that premium hotels employ between 1.2 to 1.4 people per room compared to 0.5 to 0.6 people per room for lower standard hotel and 0.25 people per room for serviced apartments.

The report also found premium hotels attracted guests that spent more per day and suggested that in the Whitsundays this offering could be complimented by a large-scale conference facility.

In terms of its social and community findings the report stated that should a premium 12 storey hotel be constructed within the Port of Airlie the majority of visually impacted lots would be above Golden Orchid Drive, “meaning the majority of the community perceiving they will be affected will maintain views above the hotel and either side of the built object that occupies less than three degrees of their field of view, decreasing for residents further up the hill from Golden Orchid Drive”.

Environmentally it was found that “a premium hotel of any size will not have a significant impact on the environment if constructed in one of the four areas identified by the study”.

In summary the report recommended council consider allowing building heights of up to 10 or 12 storeys for this purpose, suggesting the Port of Airlie as the optimum site.

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