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Development has a fair way to go before a club is swung in anger

IMG Golf course Services, the driving force behind the Johnny Walker Classic, has been appointed to manage The Golf Club Kennedy Bay at Port Kennedy, south of Perth.

While the frustration over the Port Kennedy project continues to simmer, this latest announcement regarding the golf course comes ahead of any date for the restart of the ambitious Port Kennedy development

The 18-hole course is the only part of the major tourism development to have gone ahead.

IMG director golf course services James Cooper said the group was looking to expand its golf course management interests in WA.

“IMG is looking to grow in WA. In fact we’re opening up an office there in the near future,” Mr Cooper said.

“Port Kennedy is an outstanding golf course. In its short time it has developed a great reputation.

“And from our involvement we believe we can make Kennedy Bay very successful.”

IMG’s involvement in the golf course is viewed as a positive sign for investors and the community, who have waited eight years for the project to proceed.

“The success of the rest of the Port Kennedy development is very important, although we are purely looking after the golf course,” Mr Cooper said.

“My understanding is that the financial details are going through the government, so I believe it’s very close.

“I think it’s going to be a huge growth area and, when you look at other developments, like the Vines, they’ve done very well in areas not as appealing as Port Kennedy.”

The Golf Club Kennedy Bay originally opened in 1999, but was upgraded last year.

IMG claims that, in its short lifetime, The Golf Club Kennedy Bay has been recognised as one of the top 25 courses in Australia.

And it was voted as Australia’s sixth best public access golf course in the 2002 edition of the Golf Course Guide.

IMG is looking to promote its portfolio of golf courses to tour operators worldwide, including corporate and incentive travel organisers, to capitalise on the expanding sports tourism market.

Port Kennedy Action Group secretary Roly Sharp is concerned the high green fees are discouraging locals from using the course, instead encouraging an elite clientele.

The current marketing material for the course includes packages for people to stay at the Hyatt Hotel in Perth, because the proposed hotel development has not yet been built.

“The success of the golf course is important because, if it fails, one of the key elements of the project disappears,” Mr Sharp said.

“In the original plan there was going to be a marina, two hotels a city centre including gymnasiums and backpackers’ lodges … there was about $14 million worth of infrastructure.”

Delays in the project have affected the existing infrastructure at Port Kennedy, including paving and street trees, according to Mr Sharp.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan has stated that an agreement to restart the Port Kennedy project is close.

It is understood an agreement with Pac-Asia holdings and Mirvac Fini could be announced within the next month.

The delay in any announcement since the receipt of submissions for reassignment of the development rights last July is testament to the complexities of the development.

Ms MacTiernan said this was not a simple matter and the Government must ensure the development rights were given to a business with the resources and the capacity to complete the development.

Locals in Port Kennedy and individuals who have invested in the development are concerned the final plans for the project will not include the tourism facilities vital to the development of the area.

Plans for the marina already have been scuttled by research showing the structure would have a devastating effect on the population of Little Penguins living on Penguin Island.

At the time of Business News’ publication, Freehills Partner Konrad de Kerloy, acting for Pac-Asia holdings, said the marina would not be part of the final development.

“Primarily the research we’ve done has identified that it is a sensitive environment and it is a fairly important white bait breeding area. Given that, it’s very unlikely we’ll ever get approval for it,” Mr de Kerloy said.

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