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08 May 2018 Posted by 

THEME PARK OPPORTUNITY GOES BEGGING

Pleas to council go unheard
DALLAS SHERRINGHAM*
YOUTH unemployment is rife on the Central Coast and the area is starved of a major attraction, yet the State Govt and Central Coast Council seem to have washed their hands of the whole idea.

Gosford entrepreneur and Motor Museum owner Tony Denny launched a bold last minute plan to save the iconic site through Cr Bruce McLachlan at the March 26 Central Coast Council meeting.

However Council spent a just few cursory minutes discussing the plan and then decided to do nothing, voting down Mr Denny’s bold plan.

To back it up, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment  said: “Old Sydney Town is not really a focus of the Department”.

The site is zoned E2 and E4 which basically means it will be kept forever in its current state as a tourist area. However we live in the days of hidden deals so it may be a fait accompli that our treasured site ends up being houses and factories.

Bring back Old Sydney Town

An 11,000-strong community group, Bring Back Old Sydney Town, has fought a long and valiant battle to get the site saved, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Gosford Classic Car Museum owner Mr Denny through independent councillor, Bruce McLachlan, unsuccessfully attempted to give Central Coast Council an opportunity to partner with Mr Denny’s syndicate to buy Old Sydney Town.

Cr McLachlan put an urgency motion to the ordinary Council meeting on, which was lost. He moved that Council request its CEO, as a matter of urgency, investigate the acquisition and potential development of the former Old Sydney Town site for industrial and tourism development.

The 120ha site has been valued at around $15 million and expressions of interested closed with CBRE on March 15, with the agency reporting a significant amount of interest” which will be whittled down to genuine contenders in the coming weeks.

The private investors behind the Bring Back Old Sydney Town group have been in negotiation with the property’s owner, Richard Chui of the Warwick International group, for several years. The Old Sydney Town theme park was shut down in 2003 following Mr Chui’s lost Land and Environment Court bid to redevelop the property with a multi-storey resort and golf course.

The Bring Back Old Sydney Town group has collected 11,000 signatures in support of their bid, which would not be reliant on any government or public funding.
In pressing Mr Denny’s plan, Cr McLachlan told council: “In my capacity in business, I do have the capacity to be in touch with some major people around the Coast.”

“A discussion came about whether or not a private syndicate could be put together and whether or not, with Council’s involvement, it could look at the site.”

Iconic sites of the central Coast

Cr McLachlan said the matter was urgent because “the property will be sold within a week”. “I have made a couple of phone calls, I have delivered you a leading developer, I have delivered you $10m dollars and an opportunity to get into the chance to buy one of the iconic sites on the Central Coast.

“The agent has been told we are meeting on Monday, and if we resolve to investigate, then the staff will be able to sit down with the joint venture partners and say is this a goer or not?

“I am giving the Central Coast people, through you people here, a chance to have a crack at Old Sydney Town,” he said.

“Mr Denny is a person that has a track record and a reputation. I have no hesitation in presenting him to Council as a local operator.”

Mr Denny was prepared to offer $10m if Council was willing to enter into a partnership.

Mr Denny’s business plan was to produce a new business park, sell some land back and reduce entry costs for the tourist park developer.

The end result would be an opportunity for Council to acquire the Old Sydney Town site and create a lease situation, or look at a whole new tourism attraction.
Interestingly , Acting Council CEO Brian Glendenning said staff had “very high level discussions with the former owner nine months ago. It was a very high-level discussion, but nothing ever progressed from that meeting. It was along the lines of what was council’s vision for the site.”

Councillors then went into a whole lot reasons why it couldn’t do anything, voted it down and that was it.

CBRE’s Peter Vines certainly can see the potential in the site, He said the opportunity to acquire such a substantial footprint in one of the state’s strongest-growing regions had attracted widespread buyer interest from local and offshore groups.

As well as Old Sydney Town’s 25ha, the 120-hectare site also includes the Australian Reptile Park, 5.4ha which is continuing to operate on a long lease, as well as the remaining 89ha that wraps around both sites and is currently being used as farmland.

“Given its vast size, direct proximity to the Somersby industrial area and future rezoning potential, this site could be later developed for a range of outcomes such as rural activities, theme parks, tourism development and residential subdivision,” Mr Vines said.

Old Sydney Town opened on Australia Day, 1975. More than six million people passed through its iconic tunnel, but by the 1990s it was no longer viable in its current form as tourists and local abandoned it.

Ideal for a Disneyland style of project

It was ideal for development as a “Disneyland” or “Lego land” style project and these types of projects boomed on the Gold Coast with Movie World, Sea World and Dreamworld garnering massive support  from the 1990s onward.

Sadly, no-one in NSW or on the old Gosford City Council had the foresight of the Gold Coast and Old Sydney Town withered on the vine, eventually closing for good in 2003. After 15 years of the site deteriorating, its own Richard Chiu, who had repeatedly tried to get the site rezoned so it was viable put it

The best thing about the Old Sydney Town site is that there is room for a large theme park, an outdoor entertainment facility like the Hunter Valley’s Hope Estate and family  hotel accommodation to be developed.

This would have a flow on effect for the Central Coast with international visitors finally discovering the coast as a region in  which they could base themselves for an extended period.

The State Govt will spend tens of billions of dollars on projects this year which will create a few jobs. Here is the chance to create up to two or three thousand jobs and indirect jobs with  an outlay of just $15m. It is a no brainer to me.

*Dallas Sherringham’s expertise is in the development of tourist projects, specifically theme parks. He has visited more than 50 countries as an official media representative and worked in Orlando, the theme park capital of the world. In 2016 he visited Tokyo Disneyland as an invited guest.

 



editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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Central Coast Business Access (CCBA) covers the business and community issues of the NSW Central Coast region. CCBA is a prime media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities.