By Jake Combe
The “unbeatable Australian environment” combined with the “most wonderful parts of China” will become the basis for the proposed development of a China theme park on the central coast, north of Sydney.
For years, China has asserted itself as Australia’s most important trading partner, investing in key industries. The country is vital to our future prosperity. Now China has directly aligned itself with the tourism sector.
Currently Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable international tourism market, Chinese visitors accounted for more than $3.8 billion in 2011.
“There are lots of benefits in Chinese tourism,” said Amanda Li, Secretary General of Australian Chinese Theme Park Pty Ltd (ACTP), the company behind the development.
“China is so big, people cannot travel all around the country. But the China theme park will contain the most wonderful parts of China with the unbeatable Australian environment. This unique and novel project definitely will attract Chinese tourists and, of course, tourists from all over the world.”
Recently formed, the ACTP has been “established specifically for this project”, securing the rights to a $10 million, 15.7 hectare parcel of land in Warnervale from the Wyong Shire Council.
Purchased by the council in 1977 for $30,000 the sale of the land to the ACTP, an “Australian company overseen by all Australian board members”, marks the end of Wyong Shire’s involvement with the project.
Mixed reactions from locals to the proposed Chinese cultural theme park have conflicted with the council’s motivation of money, jobs and investment. Opposition has been somewhat negated, though, by promoting a boom of 500 direct jobs during construction and 1,000 jobs post-completion anticipated for the Central Coast.
But there are questions over the potential for success, even though the council remain adamant that it will appeal to many people, including those travelling to or from the Hunter Valley.
Despite recent suggestions, the Wyong Shire Council have assured their ratepayers that they are not “footing the bill.” Ratepayers will “actually benefit out of the deal courtesy of the significant profit of the $10 million sale of Council land.” It is the ACTP who is “financing the deal, not Council.”
The ACTP will submit a “normal” Development Application “just like any other developer wishing to invest in the Shire, although it is currently “early days.”
Plans to begin building are scheduled for 2015, with completion of the seven uniquely themed sections reflecting Chinese life and culture targeted for 2020. The $500 million committed to the project by ACTP consist of funds “from private companies in China.”
“We focus on not just short-term but middle and long-term tourists,” said Ms Li. “We promote special programmes, like healthy programmes, which are good for Chinese mid and long-term tourists.”
According to Wyong Mayor Doug Eaton, the theme park will have the capacity to “put Wyong onto a major world stage.” The area is slated to become a tourist mecca and bring millions of dollars of tourism into the area, which will benefit the whole region’s economy.
Regardless, there is some speculation regarding the Chinese Government’s motivation to “build a mini Chinatown in Australia.” But since interest rates have dropped, Chinese investors have been buying real estate in other countries, and “Australia is easy pickings for them.”
China, home to over a billion people, has confronted many challenges in its fight to become a developed nation. Its development has been unprecedented in speed which has resulted in a smooth transition. The country’s latest bid for an economic stronghold in Australia is based on a long-term, resource-hungry view.
The ACTP is supported by the Australia China Foundation Association (ACFA), a non-profit, bi-national organisation dedicated to trade and investment opportunities between Australia and China.