16/10/2014 - 15:33

Poli circles Port Geographe

16/10/2014 - 15:33

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Aquila Resources founder Tony Poli has emerged as a potential buyer for the Port Geographe development, in a move that could breathe new life into the long-stalled coastal project.

Poli circles Port Geographe
Aquila Resources founder Tony Poli.

Aquila Resources founder Tony Poli has emerged as a potential buyer for the Port Geographe development, in a move that could breathe new life into the long-stalled coastal project.

The accountant-turned-mining-magnate appears to have outbid a number of high-profile property operations vying for the seaside plot, including QUBE Property Group.

A spokesperson for Mr Poli said there was currently no deal with Port Geographe, however he revealed Mr Poli had been “actively investigating a number of property investments”.

Baosteel-Aurizon’s $1.4 billion takeover of Aquila earlier this year delivered Mr Poli a $400 million windfall for his stake in the business, 14 years after the then resources minnow listed on the ASX with a market cap of just $6 million.

Port Geographe residents and its near neighbours in the township of Wonnerup will be hoping Mr Poli can reinvigorate the stalled beachside precinct and complete the remaining stages of the development, which have been in limbo for years.

The 59-hectare plot has been the subject of a long-running receivership after the trouble-plagued project’s most recent proponents, developer Luke Saraceni, Macquarie Bank and Axiom Properties, put their investment vehicles into administration in 2011.

Savills ran the expressions of interest campaign for the undeveloped portion of the project earlier this year on behalf of receiver PPB Advisory.

Neither Savills nor PPB would discuss the sale, but it is understood negotiations with a buyer are in train.

The sale campaign attracted significant interest from Western Australian developers and builders keen to capitalise on the slow but steady recovery in lot sale prices within the precinct.

Lot prices are still down on the highs of 2006 but local real estate agents reported they were edging closer and interest in the development was good.

The undeveloped portion of the development could support up to 486 canal side, lakeside and traditional ‘dry’ lots, however there is opposition among the local community to the construction of any further canals within the project.

And there is the potential for a new owner to negotiate a fresh blueprint for the land with the Department of Transport and the City of Busselton.

Port Geographe has been beset with difficulties since the mid 1990s, when the construction of groynes precipitated the noxious build-up of seagrass.

Project financier Westpac is believed to be owed close to $100 million, but industry insiders claim the sale of the land will not reap anywhere near this figure.

Work has recently finished on the $28 million reconfiguration of the groynes to avoid the pungent collection of weed along the coast and the landscaping and sand replenishment programs are under way.

It’s hoped this work, which was funded by the state government after a long-running campaign by local residents, will put an end to the weed issue that has blighted this development and nearby Wonnerup for close to two decades.

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