Thursday, November 16, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
By Paul Gellatly
Bowen could one-day be home to the largest over-water cable car system in Australia if plans by a Bowen developer go ahead to connect Flagstaff Hill, North Head and Stone islands with a cable car.
Jarrod McCracken, speaking at the November meeting of Bowen Chamber of Commerce, said the project would be the first $130 million stage in a Stone Island development plan that would ultimately be worth $1 billion over 15-20 years.
The audience heard how the cable car project, if it passed all Council and planning processes, could be up and running by 2026, providing what he called "a game changer" for Bowen tourism.
Mr McCracken has taken on the Stone Island development as a long-term concern and has already spent about $12 million on upgrades to the island's seawall, wharf system and a pontoon.
He said as the island was outside the barriers of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, he had been successfully able in 2016 to negotiate with Whitsunday Regional Council to have the island zoning changed, in effect making it something like another suburb of Bowen, opening it up to development with limited potential for third-party objections to the project.
With about 7800sqm of land available to develop, there would be space for a range of businesses to set up on the island, including accommodation, food and beverage outlets, and tourism. He said he had also acquired a 1.5ha lease on the seabed on the resort side of the island, also attractive for tourism ventures.
Mr McCracken said work was still to be done in answering parking/traffic concerns at Flagstaff Hill and visual amenity as towers would be erected on the three sites to support the cable car wires.
The cable car project would be provided by Swiss firm Doppelmayr, with whom Mr McCracken said erection cost/cost recovery issues were yet to be determined.
The plans will be submitted to a full council meeting in mid-December for a year-long draft development application. If it passed, Mr McCracken said the cable car project could be constructed within 18 months.
He said sewerage works had already been undertaken to service 3000 people, enough to service 500-bed, 500-staff facilities envisaged for Stone Island.
"It's a way to get visitors to Bowen to stay longer here in the Whitsundays," Mr McCracken said. "It's a way of ending the idea of Bowen as an afterthought for tourists."
Artist's impression of how the Stone Island cable car service and associated infrastructure will appear. Photo courtesy Jarrod McCracken