Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung’s massive $8 billion Aquis project appears to have cleared any environmental roadblocks in Queensland because according to the company, it doesn’t need federal environmental assessment to begin with.
That’s the argument the company made to the federal Department of the Environment last week, maintaining that the project, despite its enormity, won’t have any significant impact not the surrounding environment from which the project will rise. “A draft EIS [environmental impact statement] has been completed but not submitted to the co-ordinator-general, pending finalization of a related issuing of a casino license that is critical to the project viability,” the company said in a statement.
So that’s the good news and it paves the way for the massive project to inch closer to coming to fruition. Once completed, Aquis is expected to be one of the biggest – if not the biggest – resort and casinos in Australia, a description that fits in nicely with the company’s intention of turning it into “Australia’s only genuine, world-class, integrated resort.” The massive, 340-hectare project is expected to include two casinos, as many as eight hotels, a golf course, tennis courts, and even a 33-hectare, man-made lake that will be filled using a 2.2-kilometer pipeline that will connect it from the Great Barrier Reef.
Whether Aquis’ promise will be fulfilled is another matter, entirely. Even with its claims, numerous community groups have voiced their concerns over the sheer size of the project. Likewise, environmentalists have also expressed skepticism on long-term ramifications the project will have on the Great Barrier Reef while also pointing out risks of flooding and pollution in the surrounding areas.
Andrew Picone, of the Australian Conservation Foundation, told the Guardian: “At a minimum, it should be considered a controlled action to protect the Great Barrier Reef.”
“We have a developer here who thinks he should be given all the approvals, but there is due process and the community should have its say. The environment there is already a floodplain, it is prone to flooding even without the creation of artificial lakes. With climate change and rising sea levels, massive developments like this in storm surge zones put the environment at risk and put lives at risk, too.”
One thing appears certain after hearing both sides. There should be more dialogue on how to address this issue moving forward. It’s not like the communities in Queensland are against the project. They just want Aquis to be fully vetted by all parties involved and that it won’t pose any short and long term headaches for the people living in the area.