King’s reign over the plain not in vain

24/09/2009 - 00:00


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KING Neptune has been waiting a long time for this.Amid much anticipation of rapid development, a six-metre high statue was built almost three decades ago, facing southward from a promontory at Two Rocks towards Perth, 60 kilometres distant.

KING Neptune has been waiting a long time for this.

Amid much anticipation of rapid development, a six-metre high statue was built almost three decades ago, facing southward from a promontory at Two Rocks towards Perth, 60 kilometres distant.

He is not a forlorn sight, and nor should he be, for the optimism at the time of his construction from limestone, concrete and scaffolding is returning.

All that the king surveys is rapidly changing. Not just a few houses around his coastal village, but it's expected as many as 90,000 dwellings will be built around his vantage point and to the south over the next few decades.

By 2050, more than 220,000 people could be living between Alkimos and Two Rocks. That number rises to 250,000 if you extend to areas south of Alkimos, a stretch of coastal dune that, at the beginning of this century, housed just a handful of people.

This was the vision alive at the time when King Neptune was built.

He was part of a tourism development, Atlantis Marine Park, which was one of many tourism attractions supposed to add vitality to the region, attracting business and people. Unlike the statue, most did not survive to see the expected growth occur.

Atlantis was built in 1981, on a sprawling cluster of sand dunes next to the existing Two Rocks harbour, with several spacious pools offering entertainment such as trained dolphins.

The park was closed to public in 1990 and the dolphins released to the wild some years later, as the hopes of attracting further development faded.

The marine park was one of the more concrete attempts to develop the area in line with now discredited entrepreneur Alan Bond's Yanchep Sun City vision. A major property developer in the 1960s and early 1970s, Mr Bond was ahead of his time - a common issue for him, as time would show.

Another solid outcome from this period was the celebrated success at the America's Cup by Mr Bond's wing-keeled yacht, Australia II, in 1983. He had envisaged winning the race in the early 1970s so that he could host the event off Yanchep and so raise the profile of the area.

This plan stalled when, in 1974, his first challenger, Southern Cross, failed to win the cup.

The cup remained an obsession long after he had quit the Yanchep landholding and the 1987 defence was held off Fremantle instead.

Another real project was Club Capricorn, which still exists today nestled in the dunes between Yanchep and Two Rocks. Long past its prime, the resort is earmarked for redevelopment by the Capricorn Village joint venture, which now controls the land and has plans for a new tourism accommodation venture there.

There was also the proposed golf resort at Eglinton, which was much talked about in the late 1980s.

The creators of The Vines golf development bought a big tract of land under the name Deluxe Australian Golf Tours backed by a Japanese consortium.

It has been described as fitting the extravagant style of the time, with a huge amount of land devoted to entertaining very few people in a luxurious setting.

In those days, Queensland's Gold Coast was booming on the back of Japanese-funded developments and an influx of tourists from the rich Asian nation.

But by 1993 that dream was over and the huge land holding was sold to Eglinton Estates Pty Ltd, a company now controlled by the family of entrepreneur Martin Copley.

While that project never came to fruition, it has not entirely disappeared without a trace.

Part of the resort concept included a marina development for which all required approvals were secured. Eglinton Estates has retained the right to build the marina.

Another bit of the colour of the area is its link to WA Inc.

A 1992 report by the WA Legislative Assembly's expenditure review committee entitled 'Inquiry into the proposed grant of land at Alkimos to the University of Notre Dame' outlines an unusual deal that never eventuated.

In effect, the proposed Catholic university was to buy into a 1,473-hectare site that would be developed in joint venture, with a significant proportion of the risk borne by the government.

The university was to be granted at least 100ha of land, on which it may or may not have built its educational facilities. In the end, the deal was never closed and Notre Dame set up in Fremantle, something many believe would have happened anyway.

Some of that proposed university land had an interesting history itself. About 1,000ha was bought in 1973 by a consortium of Perth businessman for $367,900. They sold it to the Urban Lands Council for just over $3 million two years later.

The ULC, unusually, used a nominee company linked to Bond Corp's lawyers Parker & Parker, which itself had a common director with Bond Corp.

The land was sold to the WA Development Corporation for $3.45 million in 1989. The inquiry found nothing untoward in these transactions.


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