10/08/2011 - 10:24

Administrators wade into seagrass impasse

10/08/2011 - 10:24

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Administrators wade into seagrass impasse

LUKE Saraceni is understood to be close to putting an administrator into his interest in the troubled Port Geographe project after listed property developer Axiom put its 40 per cent stake into administration this week.

MacSea Nominees, a joint venture between Mr Saraceni and Macquarie Bank, has a 60 per cent interest in Port Geographe, but Mr Saraceni would not comment on the project.

PPB Advisory was this week put into Tallwood Nominees, the subsidiary that owns Axiom’s 40 per cent stake in the troubled development.

The oceanside canal project just north of Busselton has been stalled since April 2009 and plagued by the build-up of seagrass and sediment on its beaches.

Axiom managing director Ben Laurance would not discuss the appointment of an administrator but it’s understood concerns over the cost and work schedule to remedy the seagrass build-up were key issues in appointing PPB.

All the Port Geographe stakeholders, including the Shire of Busselton and the state government, have been in discussions for at least 18 months to try and find a way to restart work on the project.

Sources close to these negotiations suggest the appointment of administrators could smooth the way for the state government to negotiate directly with the project banker, St George Bank, over the timing and funding of alterations necessary to stop seagrass piling up on the beaches.

The Shire of Busselton revealed in May it had approached LandCorp to take over the project, but LandCorp’s only involvement to date has been as a consultant providing commercial advice to the Department of Transport.

Department of Transport project manager James Holder said the government was committed to continuing negotiations with the Port Geographe developer and this would now be undertaken through the administrator.

A University of Western Australia study commissioned by the Department of Transport and the Shire of Busselton earlier this year identified a number of modifications necessary to stop the seagrass build-up. 

Released in March, the study recommended major changes to the project’s groynes as well as realignment of the development foreshore.

These works were not costed but industry insiders suggest they could cost anywhere between $20 million and $40 million.

Local residents this week warned they would not tolerate any further delays to the works as a result of the appointment of an administrator to Axiom’s interest.

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