Controversial new ‘mini Gwinganna’ unveiled as offers close for retreat sale
Offers for the high-end spa resort part-owned by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman were under negotiation this week as Gwinganna’s founder unveiled plans for a controversial new Gold Coast retreat.
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat owner Tony De Leede said discussions were underway with at least two interested parties for the sale of the world-renowned wellness resort he opened in Tallebudgera Valley 16 years ago.
Meanwhile, Mr De Leede has lodged plans with Gold Coast City Council for a second eco tourism retreat, dubbed ‘mini Gwinganna’ and located adjacent to his original property, but its approval has stalled amid opposition from local residents.
More than 30 residents have submitted objections to Mr De Leede’s new project, Eco View Retreat, which comprised 15 cabins, set over 28ha on Trees Rd, along with a central pavilion for meals, seminars and workshops.
Residents complained about increased traffic on the steep, narrow access road; noise; and the impact on wildlife in the semi-rural area.
“An increase in tourism will affect the peaceful ambience of our semi-rural existence. This is the reason most people live up here. Why should our peaceful lives be impacted for someone else’s gain?” Trees Rd resident Helen Baker said.
Fellow resident Christine Ross said: “Keep the tourism on the coastal fringe where it belongs. “Nobody who has purchased property out here signed up to be included in the tourism rat race!”
While Gwinganna provided a fully catered experience for individual guests — 80 per cent are women, and only about 10 per cent visit as couples — the Eco View Retreat would offer rooms and facilities for exclusive hire by groups or businesses with a maximum of 30 guests for corporate events.
The development would focus on, “healing therapies, yoga, meditation [and] healthy eating practices enriched by the surrounding environment”, the application lodged with council stated.
The facilities-for-hire concept had proved successful at Mr De Leede’s Bali retreat, Komune, opened 10 years ago.
Mr De Leede, who also founded the national gym franchise Fitness First, said prospective buyers for Gwinganna intended to continue operating under its current business model.
“They have said, ‘we don’t need another high rise in Broadbeach — we need more of this’,” he said.
“The Gold Coast is obviously known for its sand and sun and beautiful beaches, but the Gold Coast City Council is actively trying to promote nature-based tourism and we epitomise that more than anybody.
“Like Gwinganna, Eco View Retreat ties in with nature-based tourism and promoting the Hinterland more as a destination,” he said.
Gwinganna is Australia’s largest eco-retreat and was named the Best Luxury Eco Spa at the World Luxury Spa Awards 2021.
Set over 165.5ha, the resort has 60 rooms and facilities including two infinity pools, a gym, wellness education complex and yoga studios.
There’s also a three-bedroom owner’s residence, tennis courts, ampitheatre, equine facilities, organic vegetable gardens and walking tracks.
A weekend stay costs between $1,230 to $1,530.
Mr De Leede owns 80 per cent of the business, with four partners including frequent guest Jackman sharing ownership of the remaining 20 per cent.
“Hugh has invested in a couple of my other businesses as well. If we sell Gwinganna, he’ll be very happy. He and the other investors who have shares in the business will all get a very substantial return,” he said.
More than 100 people inquired during the expressions of interest campaign with Colliers International.
“We are working with shortlisted groups at the moment,” Colliers agent Karen Wales said.