It’s the development battle that’s got it all — stunning waterfront views, a furious grassroots community campaign, an overseas developer and a project that never seems to go away — or move forward.
- Chambroad was first invited by the Tasmanian government back in 2014 “to consider undertaking a major development on several sites in Tasmania”
- In 2019, the council warned the company that construction must begin within six months, or it would consider invoking the buyback clause
- On Monday night, the company’s request for a fourth time extension amid a brand new design for the site was knocked back by council
Kangaroo Bay is prime waterfront real estate — a patch of undeveloped land on Hobart’s eastern shore that offers unbroken views of the Derwent River, the city and a towering kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
For half a decade, the land has been owned by Chinese company Chambroad Overseas Investments, which purchased it in 2017 for $2.44 million.
The original pitch was to build a five-star hotel and a hospitality school, but that proposal was met with animosity by a community that claimed the development was too big for the area.
Even without the opposition, Chambroad has struggled to move the project forward, meaning that for the past five years, that patch of land with spectacular views is little more than an empty construction site.
An eight-year saga
When it comes to development stoushes, Tasmanians are well-versed.
South Hobart has the cable car, Rosny Hill a luxury eco-hotel, and then there’s the standing camp at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central Plateau.
Many of these developments tend to spend years bouncing through the different levels of planning, neither dying nor succeeding.
Chambroad’s proposal has yet to even pass the council stage, and after Monday night’s Clarence City Council meeting, things are looking uncertain.
But if recently elected mayor Brendan Blomley’s statements are anything to go by, it is certainly not dead in the water.
Chambroad was first invited by the Tasmanian government back in 2014 “to consider undertaking a major development on several sites in Tasmania”.
It chose Kangaroo Bay and by 2017, it had entered into a sale and development agreement with Clarence Council to develop the hotel and hospitality school.
To move forward, Chambroad needed an education provider, which came in the form of TasTAFE.
Two years on, TasTAFE dropped out, admitting the school needed more than it could offer.
Clarence Council stayed committed to its chosen developers, with then-mayor Doug Chipman even travelling to China to meet with investors to find out where the development was at.
It was this time – around mid-2019 – that the council warned the company that construction must begin within six months, or it would consider invoking the buyback clause.
An 11th-hour proposal
Within months, Chambroad had a new education partner – the University of Tasmania.
Two years later, construction had yet to start, and the university pulled out of the project, saying it could not commit due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
Chambroad, by this point, had been granted multiple extensions of time to begin the project.
The community had also remained staunchly opposed to it.
By October 2022, Chambroad announced it would be dropping the hospitality school, and on Monday night, December 20, it requested its fourth extension and presented the council with a revised hotel proposal at the eleventh hour.
The artist’s impressions of the hotel were only released to the media that day, with an embargo that lifted at 7pm when the meeting started.
In a presentation to the council on the night, Chambroad said it had already spent $12 million on the development and claimed the delays had been “outside of its control”.
At council, it presented a modified proposal, which removed the hospitality school, with a vision it could be completed by 2025.
Both the request for the extension of time and the modified proposal were rejected by the council, on a number of grounds, including that council “did not have adequate time to properly consider the modified proposal”, and a lack of “public consultation”.
This does not necessarily spell the end of the development.
Mr Blomeley, who in 2021 described the Kangaroo Bay project as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and then in 2022 – when running for mayor – said he wanted the site returned to public ownership, put out a statement following the council meeting.
In it, he described the site as the “jewel in our crown” and said any change of design needed to go through a “proper consultation process”.
“Our community deserves to see action on this site after waiting so long to see something happen,” he said.
After saying he was “proud” the council had rejected the extension and modified design, Mayor Blomeley left the door open for Chambroad to develop the space.
“I hope we see some more detail in the coming months on Chambroad’s modified development proposal that includes community feedback that might put us in a position to move forward with development on the site,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chambroad said it was still committed to the project and would now “commence a comprehensive community consultation”, including speaking to the local community and business owners.
Alternatively, the council could trigger the buyback clause, but it will only have until April 2023 to do so.