Plans revealed for $583m Lindeman Island revamp

An artist’s impression of the proposed Lindeman Island resort.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Lindeman Island resort.

Half a decade after buying Queensland’s Lindeman Island, the Chinese owners have finally revealed their redevelopment agenda — although the Great Barrier Reef resort is not slated to open for business until late 2021.

While Hayman Island is up for sale following the loss of its luxury operators One & Only, and Dunk, Double, Daydream, Brampton, Long, South Molle and Great Keppel islands are all closed, the White Horse Australia Lindeman Group plans to fork out at least $583 million to redevelop the ­island southeast of Airlie Beach that once boasted a large but dilapidated Club Med resort.

White Horse plans 325 opulent rooms across its resorts and a series of villas. But senior property sources are not too hopeful, saying the days of profit-driven Queensland resort islands are all but over.

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“The costs of operating these islands are so exorbitant,” one says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Look at the wage costs, transport costs, utility costs including sewage and the costs of complying with the Great Barrier Reef authorities.

“It makes it extremely hard for resorts to ever be viable. There is a real chance the Queensland government will reclaim these ­islands because many of the ­owners are not developing them and leaving them idle.”

White Horse’s Australian chief executive, Paul Nyholt, agrees that it is difficult to operate three and four-star resorts on Queensland islands because they were priced similarly to five-star ­resorts in Asia and the Pacific.

Lindeman Island White Horse

The swimming pool and accommodation is included in White Horse’s masterplan to draw visitors back to Lindeman Island.

“To be profitable in Australia we have to charge at a certain rate,” Nyholt says.

“We need to be five to six-star and we want to be cutting edge — that is where you can make it work. (But) operations like (Queensland’s) Hamilton Island are doing well because they have a very good mix of offerings; they do conferencing and the wedding market.”

White Horse, which owns 55,000 billboards across 21 Chinese cities, plans a five-star beach resort, a six-star spa resort and an opulent eco resort, while a ­series of 89 luxury tourist villas could be developed on Lindeman further down the track. A marina and boat harbour costing as much as $60 million to develop has been scrapped because of concerns about harm it might cause to the Great Barrier Reef.

White Horse shelled out $12 million to buy the island in 2012.

Nyholt says that unlike most developers, the company will complete the entire three-resort project before the expected opening. He stresses, however, that the design still needs to pass the public consultation stage and through various state and federal government consent authorities.

Nyholt expects 30% of the island’s tourist arrivals to be offshore and 70% to be domestic tourists, despite White Horse’s Chinese-born boss, William Han, planning a China-wide billboard blitz promoting Lindeman Island.

“We want to avoid being ­reliant on the local tourism market,” Nyholt says.

White Horse William Han Lindeman Island

White Horse Australia Lindeman Group boss William Han at Lindeman Island.

White Horse is also planning a conference centre, a beach club, restaurants and lounges, as well as a central village precinct made up of restaurants, a bar, a nightclub, conference facility buildings, an arrival centre, shops, a sport and recreation centre and a staff village.

It must expand the services on the island, including power generation entailing solar with diesel back-up, sewage and water treatment, the existing airstrip and golf course upgrades. It would also ­upgrade the existing jetty and put in more moorings.

It plans eco-tourism facilities — a National Park and Great Barrier Reef Educational Centre and 30 “glamping” facilities located within the national park.

Nyholt says the finance for the resort’s construction would be sourced from domestic lenders as well as offshore.

He is hoping to start construction by the middle of next year.

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