4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News

4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News
4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News Led by John "Cueball" Mackenzie

22 June 2014


The Aquis Resort and CASINO project has released its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) this past Friday.  After reading and re-reading this document over this past weekend, one thing is clear.


Several things jump out to anyone who's read EIS reports before.

The Aquis EIS, while as lengthy as they come, was written by spinmeisters, illiterates, and bullshit artists.  Environmental challenges are identified.  But little in solutions or commitments by the developer are in evidence.  Like most of the politicians in Far North Queensland, this document is in many ways an empty suit, a spectacularly bloated report devoid of commitments designed only to dress up a spectacularly bloated gambling project to give the politicians enough cover to push it through the process.  

The Terms of Reference set out "Critical Matters" and "Routine Matters".  The Critical Matters are required to be addressed in a detailed and comprehensive way, including mitigation.  Given the failure by Aquis to provide mitigation for the huge issues this project will impose on the community, it's difficult to understand how the Queensland Coordinator-General could find this EIS is satisfactory.

Like most EIS reports, there are sections on highly technical engineering areas, wildlife preservation, native fauna and flora, etc.  Frankly, the only environmental impact by this project worth discussing is the impact on US, the humans who live in and around Cairns.  Screw some subspecies of frog or flowering tuna.  A project this size is about US, the north Queensland lifestyle, and the transport of Asian values and lifestyles to our country.  


The summary of Tony Fung (冯永祥)(Féng Yong Xiang) as the project proponent is inadequate on its face.  There is no suggestion that Tony Fung is going to finance this $8.2Billon project himself - despite being called a "Billionaire" repeatedly by the Cairns Post with no correction coming from Fung.  Therefore the "proponent" section should properly be concerned with the financiers.  Where is the money coming from?  No where is this critical issue answered, or even raised.  As we've previously discovered, a similar project now under construction in the Bahamas is being financed by the Communist Mainland Chinese government Export/Import Bank of China.

Finance is the largest expense for this project.  Several places in the EIS refer to a "Financial Model".  With a first stage estimated at A$5.05Billion, interest payments on a "vendor finance" loan from the Chinese government would be much less than commercial market financing.  And the Chinese proponents of the Baha Mar project in the Bahamas could not obtain commercial market financing.  And yet the EIS is replete with rosy financial results, and a "Financial Model" that can't be known without knowing the cost of finance.  This means one of two things:

  • Financiers and terms are known, but not being given to the community
  • Financial projections are complete bullshit

Tony Fung is said to be a "resident" of Hong Kong.  What is his citizenship?  Canadian?  And what visa has been granted to him allowing him to stay and work in Australia?  Why have his "significant investments in two major Chinese property development projects" not been further disclosed so their performance can be evaluated?  In what other parts of the world is Mr. Fung invested, and do any of these present a conflict of interest?  There's less here than on a LinkedIn page.

Fung then lists his Australian interests.  How are a bunch of small business investments in cattle, sugar cane, and boat charters even remotely relevant to the ownership and operation of a giant hotel and CASINO project?

We *DO* know that at least one of Fung's previous forays into hotel operation resulted in court action that required Fung to pay over AU$14M in damages to New World Hotels.  Strangely enough, Fung cites this experience (which never suggests any "operational" experience) as a positive, despite this lawsuit and harsh comments from the judge about his veracity and ethics, which are never mentioned in the EIS.

Then there is Fung's land development project in the Pearl River Delta.  Dongguan, long known as the "sex capital of China" boasts "vast tracts of land that can be developed into brothels", and a reported AU$8Billion in illicit business each year.  And one can Google literally hundreds of reports about the corruption and payoffs that accompany virtually all land transactions in Mainland China.  About this transaction, the EIS states "This approach is consistent with his (Fung) identification and securing of the site for the proposed Aquis development".  Which approach?  This site was just one of many that the actual Chinese developer has around China.  Fung is not shown as even one of the fifteen directors of these projects.

One paragraph is dedicated to about the most critical part of the development - the design architects for the project.  And this paragraph is replete with exaggerations and bullshit.  It reads (Page 2-3):

"Mr. Fung has engaged AEDAS, arguably the world's most experienced large scale Integrated Resort designers, to design Aquis resort.  To date, in addition to AEDAS, in excess of 20 specialist advisors and contractor organizations have been involved in the development of the Aquis Resort concept".

A look at the AEDAS website (aedas.com) shows them involved in just ONE integrated resort - the Alushta Radisson Resort Hotel in Alushta, Ukraine - 157 rooms..  It shows NO projects in Australia, and virtually all their work in big cities with "ultramodern" themes.  While their mission statement says "The company is built on the belief that good design can only be delivered by people with a deep social and cultural understanding of the communities they are designing for" (who ends a sentence with a preposition), we're left wondering what "deep social and cultural understanding" of Cairns had caused them to propose a project that looks like an off cut from The Jetsons?

Fung then asserts he's about to begin a "formal procurement process" with "both domestic and international" contractors, without disclosing where the money is coming from?  This is absurd in the extreme.  In fact the Fung land-procurement process for this project looks to be dodgy - with former NP MP Martin Tenni claiming on recorded radio broadcasts that he's been acting as broker for the transaction - without an Estate Agent's licence!


The number of hotel rooms has ballooned from the original plans given the community, with an additional 3,750 rooms now shown.  This at the expense of the "villas" - which time and time again have proven to be unwelcome accommodation for foreign visitors.  Unlike most development projects, not one hotel company has committed to the project.  One of the major hotel chains that's been approached by the Fung team has told HBW that this project is not considered to be viable.  In contrast the Baha Mar project in the Bahamas had Hyatt and Mélia, two upscale hoteliers, on board at the design stage for all the world to evaluate.

This lack of confidence by world-class hoteliers is a red flag.

Like all of the documents, different numbers are used in different places with no rhyme or reason.  In this section, peak occupancy is said to be 12,000 guests, while elsewhere the figure used is 10,000.  The next figure that seems odd is the gross floor area for hotel rooms (625,000 m2) divided by the number of rooms (7500).  This gives each room a floor area of almost 87m2.  Much of Cairns doesn't live in accommodation this large (nor most of China).  And since shared space (hallways & service areas) and back of house floor area is shown separately, big questions surround why a hotel needs rooms so large.  The largest standard hotel rooms in Cairns are at the Pullman - about 40m2.  Even a SUITE at the Hilton is only 60m2.

Tony Fung has removed the promise of a sports stadium from the EIS, with only a vague suggestion that they might participate in some upgrading somewhere else.  He's also removed any suggestion of a water park, apparently believing as we all do that a foundering, scrambling, and failing Paul Freebody is great comic relief for the city.  And while the aquarium still appears in this EIS you've got to wonder why, except as a further hammer with which to kill the CBD.  Also gone are any suggestions of a theater space shared with Council - a profoundly stupid idea that continues to be embraced by a doddering Sleepy Bob Manning.

And the two theaters have been dramatically reduced in size, from 2500 seats to 600.  Apparently they've discovered how expensive it is to have world-class artists come all this way to give a few shows in a casino.  I guess they've decided to settle for the raft of "impersonator" shows like Brothers.  Without a 2500 seat theater, they've clearly abandoned the idea of world-class entertainment.  


This section begins to hit at the heart of their financial planning, and the reading of this section should scare the daylights out of every existing business owner and tourism provider in the Cairns region.

While Aquis suggests an additional 1,000,000 visitors will come to Cairns each year solely because of Aquis, they also suggest that an additional 500,000 will visit Aquis.  As tourists average three days to visit Cairns, it suggests an immediate loss of 1/3 for restaurants, day trips, and shoppers to Cairns Central.  Aquis would likely have big-ticket upscale shops that would obviate the need for Aquis visitors to shop in the CBD.  And in the traffic planning section, there's nothing about shuttle buses taking tourists into the CBD.  That's because they have no plan to do so.  Simple. 

Aquis will be the giant sucking sound that business hears, sucking up their employees, customers, and in fact the life out of the CBD.  With no direct connection between the CBD and Aquis, it's an obvious result that the CBD as currently planned will die a slow, ignominious death.  It will become a CBD museum of the Old Cairns.

Aquis predicts the need for 20,000 staff - and to seemingly underline their commitment to local employment they've removed the "staff accommodation" shown in the plan previously.  We don't believe this is in fact their final position, as it is improbable that 20,000 people could be found to work in this facility without foreign (Chinese) labor.  The report suggests that "relocated workers will seek accommodation in Cairns" and that "it is likely that accommodation demand could exceed available supply. . ."  This is the understatement of the year.  With Cairns generally having vacancy rates of 2% or less, we regard this as a fatal flaw in this document.

The report also asserts that "The project will create a significant demand for a skilled workforce".  No shit.  While the document suggests that the demand will require "workers and their families to relocate to Cairns", this assumes that this level of skilled but idle workforce is available ANYWHERE in Australia.  Ask how many foreigners have been given 457 visas to work on Barangaroo in Sydney for Lend Lease.  The fact is, there continues to be a skills shortage across Australia, and with the federal LNP government cutting trade education, Aquis will likely bring a largely complete construction force with them.  They will literally have no other way to build this project.

A four year construction schedule for each stage of the project is contemplated.  This is unrealistically long in the extreme.  

Two problems with this time schedule exist.

  • Financiers will never finance construction for this long a period without revenue
  • Guests to the first stage will be unwilling to pay premium prices while looking at a large construction site for the second phase

This means a compressed construction schedule (the Asian way), with an 8000 man workforce working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week (without any of them pesky penalty rates).  Either way leaves open a huge problem - how does Cairns provide the necessary housing for the inevitable growth in population that will be required to build and run this resort.  Fung is claiming "community concern" for his axing of a staff apartment facility adjacent to the project.  This shifts the burden into the community and government.  And the Queensland government can't build a handful of social housing units without stuffing up.  Now we're talking about thousands of people.  How is that going to happen? 

With the new Aquis EIS offering that "relocated workers (to Cairns) will seek accommodation within Cairns and it is likely demand could exceed available supply". . . this will require Aquis contractors to guarantee some form of accommodation to the relocated workers.  Whether this is in the form of financial assistance or something else, the result is easy to predict - longtime Cairns residents will see rents skyrocket - the same as all the regional centres when the miners came to town.  Shitty $150K units suddenly cost $1M or more.   Rents on a 2BR unit at $1000/fortnight. 

The Aquis EIS doesn't even come close to answering these questions.

And along with this explosion in demand is the ability of the Cairns Regional Council to cope with this explosion in demand for development approvals and services.  The council now can't ensure that projects are built in accordance with their approvals.  How do they cope, and who's making the huge investment in preparing all these council departments to handle the demands of Aquis.  These demands?  Essentially building a new city of 50,000 from the ground up!

The Aquis EIS doesn't even come close to answering these questions.

The Aquis EIS suggests car parking for the facility is "in accordance with the CRC's performance requirements inn the Car Parking and Access Code.  As Blind Freddy can see from recently constructed projects across the CRC area, these requirements are grossly short of reality.  Aquis is essentially claiming that up to 14,000 employees (70% of the total who work the day shift) can be accommodated by 4,400 car parks shared with the guests, the Sunbus, and bicycles.

Parking?  Sunbus?  This doesn't pass the laugh test.

Without a dramatic upgrade to the ability to transport workers to/from this project, especially from the southern corridor, increased pressure for low-cost, high density housing close to the project will exist, and property values in the southern corridor can be expected to stagnate.  Essentially the "Aussie Dream" of a single family detached house will be replaced by a new Cairns norm - the "Chinese-ifaction" of our housing with low-wage casino and hotel workers unable to afford the Southern Corridor.  

Essentially, Aquis will ultimately result in pushing Cairns further DOWN the economic ladder with low-wage service jobs the norm - these are "high-tech" jobs of the future.  Cairns workers are routinely singled out for some of the worst service-job performance in Australia - in a country with among the worst service-job performance in the world.  Nothing like pissing off a million tourists a year on a grand scale.    

And its suggested that tourists can be accommodated on "HOV's" (translate: buses) to get from the airport to Aquis.  A noble solution if the anticipated 10-12 additional flights per day arrive spaced out over the day.  But they won't arrive this way.  Flights to Australia from overseas generally all arrive in early morning hours.  This is a result of the need to aggregate passengers for low-volume destinations in "hubs" for the ease of their connections.  So how does Cairns move 3,000 or 4,000 passengers to and from Aquis in a three hour period.  This will require upwards of 100 full-size buses and drivers, most of which will only make one round trip to/from the airport per day.  The economics of this kind of traffic flow make little sense to us, and will make less sense to bankers who are asked to lend money to transport companies for this kind of operation.    

There are plenty of solutions to these problems, but Tony Fung's 15 year association with North Queenslanders has apparently imbued him with the small-thinking, hillbilly mentality that is a hallmark of our region.  This project screams out for a light rail linking Aquis, across the cane fields to the airport, and then down the Esplanade to the Reef Fleet Terminal.  It is in our view a REQUIREMENT for a project this large.

The Aquis EIS doesn't even come close to answering these questions. 

What about all the other infrastructure requirements?  20,000 workers mean a net increase in Cairns population of 50,000.  Fung in his EIS has conveniently failed to mention what his employees do with their preschool-age children during their workday, counting out chips to wealthy Chinese tourists.  And what about schools for the rest?  Who's building those?  We're already short sporting facilities as the Cairns Council splurges $25M on a poorly located swimming pool that no one will use.  What about the rest of the roads, many of which are already overloaded (Cook Highway, Western Arterial, Airport Road, Holloways Beach Road).  And with two-income families toiling at low-wage, unskilled jobs, how many more McDonald's are we going to need to feed this houseful of rugrats?  

The Aquis EIS doesn't even come close to answering these questions.

And those of you that live out at places like Redlynch, we've got some surprises for you, too.  Every piece of stone for the concrete is coming out of Boral's quarry at the end of the Redlynch Intake road. You know, the road that's jammed with the cars of parents taking their little darlings to the schools that line this wholly inadequate road.  Now you'll be competing with a steady stream of dump trucks loaded with quarried materials that will inevitably cover the road from quarry to Western Arterial.


Clearly, adding 20,000 people per day to Yorkey's Knob, along with a population growth in Cairns of some 40-50K, is going to provide a major challenge to the CRC to provide.  While the use of reclaimed water on the grounds of Aquis is a small help, it's anyone's guess where the water is going to
come from.  Cairns is already living on a knife-edge with only one reservoir designed for a city of 75,000.  But I guess the cynic in us says that as property values explode across the city, Council will have an ever increasing flow of our rates so we can pay for these upgrades.  There is clearly nothing in the EIS that obligates Fung or Aquis to pay for any of these expensive infrastructure upgrades.  They're just going to tell council where to hook 'em up, and hope for the best, we guess.

Electricity is an even more frightening problem.  While the project claims an electrical usage of 27MVA, similar size projects make this estimate look low - especially during peak air conditioning season.  10,000 ceiling fans soak up a lot of juice.  And since FNQ has no local base load power station, transmission losses mean a total of 50MVA in generation needs to be found.  And there anywhere this kind of spare generation available in Queensland.

This calls for radical solutions.  The first should be a requirement for on-site cogeneration of power.  And the second calls for FNQ to have our own base load power station, which should be fueled by accessing the natural gas projects now underway in PNG.

The Aquis EIS doesn't even come close to answering these questions.

The EIS makes even more absurd statements about solid waste coming from the project.  The 42,000 tons of first stage construction waste is almost half of the current waste processed in a year by the CRC.  The ultimate solid waste load is estimated at 15,700 tons per year,  for which Aquis says 1/3 will be recycled into fertiliser.  5,000 tons of fertilizer per year on a 40ha site is not viable - even Canberra doesn't generate this much fertiliser.  This however is typical of the bullshit statements being thrown out by this EIS that apparently aren't going to be challenged by the government. 

Leaving Cairns and our fellow residents neck-deep in developer excrement.


What tourist from a landlocked, high-rise hellhole in Mainland China isn't going to want to spend time on the beach?  This EIS would have you believe that although they own access to the beach at both Yorkey's Knob and Holloways, they're not going to develop it.

How long can they contain this fiction?  They expect the tourists to be satisfied with LOOKING at one of the best ocean areas for swimming?


The root of this project is gambling.  The Chinese are degenerate gamblers, and their own country doesn't want them doing it at home, for all the right reasons.  Cairns has the highest level of problem gamblers, per capita, in Australia.  And in virtually every other location where a giant resort/CASINO is planned, the local population is generally excluded from participating.

We'd make this suggestion for Aquis, sadly knowing full well who the victims are when pissing in the wind.


Unaddressed in the report is what happens to the rest of our tourism business - the "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef", the "World Heritage Rainforest", all that passé stuff?

Several travel agents at the recent conference spoke out about what's going to happen.  A Cairns Post story quoting several such agents has been removed from their website.  Ask yourself - why were all of us attracted to Cairns?  To live here, to invest here, to raise our families here?  Why do we put up with the shitty restaurant service, the bad-natured clerks in the shops, the less than fast food from Maccas, the inability to buy daily items at a reasonable price?  Because of all of these things.  The same is true for tourists.  What's wrong with the Chamber of Commerce and TTNQ?  Why won't they share all their data, all their exit interviews done at the airport, the ones that reveal why tourists come to Cairns in the first place?

And will these same tourists (or future residents) come to Cairns at all when they hear we're the home of the Great Barrier Casino?  The largest gambling eyesore in the world.  

Something tells us that they won't.  The current 740,000 wanting a reef/rainforest vacation will disappear.  Cairns post Aquis is a very different place.  Our tourism officials can't cut thru the marketing noise with ONE message "Great Barrier Reef" -   it's too many hats to wear with any credibility.  And I can see the headlines down south already - "UN says Great Barrier Reef dying, Cairns revival plan with giant Chinese CASINO project".   Perception is reality.  



We're about to enter a world governed only by the Law of Unintended Consequences.  A project of this magnitude has effects that no one can predict, no mind can fathom.  And the results from this law are usually perverse. 

And despite our cogent arguments, and those of the other thinking residents of Cairns, we're quite certain that this project is going to be rammed down our throats, like it or not.  For sadly, due to our inattention at the ballot, we've elected governments who are going to well and truly fuck us on this one.  "For the good of our economy".  So help us God.


CBD Warrior said...

Kudos HBW! A tour de force! I agree totally, people come first and this project fails all the people tests. And China and their authoritarian government are too big a risk for Cairns.

Keep up the stupendous work!

Johnno said...

From day one I have always said it is bullshit. There is a hidden agenda, just haven't worked out what. Have always asked the question WHO pays for all the extra infrastructure for this mini city,school,health,police,water,road work,sewage etc. Think a lot have their head up their arse. $8.2 BILLION makes it the biggest of it's kind in the world and on a flood way outside little Cairns.Just doesn't add up.

www.cairnsvideonews.com said...

Interesting article http://m.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/free-trade-agreement-china-wants-to-send-workers-into-australia-20140415-zquve.html?skin=dumb-phone


Ivor said...

Which brave politician will come out of hiding and speak out for us

Observer said...

Ivor, bear in mind The Cairns Post and the local TV stations are not exactly impartial on this. I can tell you many letters to The Cairns Post asking relevant questions on AQUIS have been ignored. Well done HBW on this expose.

Bob R. said...

Cairns is going to be fucked over well and truly. The mongrels who have brought this on us, King, Entsch and Trout will all disappear and leave us with one great fucken mess.

Mike said...

Well, Cooktown is starting to look good.

Anonymous said...

For once a well written and reasonably well researched piece. There is no doubt Aquis will change Cairns forever. However, I like many others choose to see the benefits, as well as the negatives. Good on you for pointing out some of the risks.

HydroShel said...

But we'll have jobs!! Haha! Jobs jobs jobs... NO stadium, NO water park, No rowing club, No theatres or entertainment...but we will have shitty back of house jobs coming out our noses. We cant do front of house unless you speak Mandarin or Cantonese- quick everyone enrol your kids in Whitfield State School or Hambledon. I hear they are the only schools in Cairns that have a class for the next generation of croupiers and concierges. Partnerships with JCU? In what???? No onsite reef lagoon anymore so no need for marine scientists, maybe an MBA from the School of Business? That might get you in the front door, we have a "top 5% uni", good luck.

steven nowakowski said...

You'd have to assume that the government of China will bank-roll this folly as a means to be involved in a mega gambling precinct and to have a foothold in Australia.
The Cairns we love and adore, a place to bring up children and provide the world with nature based tourism will be lost. Everyone please wake up.

Smithfield Sam said...

A terrific piece of work, HBW. While I note your reticence to judge the hydrology issues, rest assured JCU has reservations on this thing, too.

Anonymous said...

The analysts quoted in an article last week said Queensland would not be able to support 3 new casinos.

I have not read all the EIS but does not seem to take that into account.

Mike Friganiotis said...

Many of the social service agencies have concerns about the locals being further addicted to gambling in the new casinos. As the (reportedly) main aim of the new casinos will be to attract overseas gamblers, an effective way to deter the locals, or anyone leaving the casino destitute for that matter, would be to ask each person entering the casino to leave a $500 bond at the door, refundable on exit. That way, even if one gets 'cleaned out' inside, they will always have $500 (or any amount you choose) in their pocket on exit for accommodation, feed and transport. The government would need to legislate this. Alternatively, as per Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore, entry would be restricted to those only with foreign passports

shanghai said...

I was at another boozy yum cha the other day with pelvis, the kraut,the potato basher and we all decided if ostralias foreign policy is in the hands of Julia man hands bishop were fucked,then we headed for a bit of our own foreign policy at the night markets 50% off before seven ps check her hands out never seen like radars on mash

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that this development is going to be green lighted all the way by state government and what is going to eventuate will be not what has been offered up to woo the Cairns populous It beggars belief that a project of this overwhelming size and impact is allowed to nonchalantly change it's design , footprint , facility's, and budget on a weekly basis with no question. Our locally elected politicians have greatly let us down by not being Bi partisan. They may as well be dressed in Aquis cheerleader outfits with $100 bills stuffed in there bras! But what I find most concerning is the division it is creating among the once laid back Cairns community. It seems that if you voice anything negative about Aquis the "bring it on " supporters will brand you an uneducated lefty whinger who should leave town if you don't like it! This is before it's past planing so it can only snowball once it proceeds. Cairns is set to benefit from the Chinese &Indian tourism growth without fast tracking this dubiously conceived 'Hot Potato'.

Tony Hillier said...

Onya HBW. You well and truly put the Cairns Post and Nic Dalton to shame!

Anonymous said...

Speculating on Aquis is akin to predicting a martian invasion - it aint gonna happen folks.
This superfluous ponderment has just become the navel gaze of the year.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Howie Thomas, The Social Guy who tries to run some social media thing is a member of the LNP and the social marketer for the Aquis project. He's also the social marketer for Trout!

Anonymous said...

I also noticed the proposed Aquis "Equestrian Centre" is located right next to Trout's horse riding school.

Anonymous said...

Most supporters of this mess are out of town blowins like king and co

steven nowakowski said...

Would tourist towns like Byron Bay, Noosa or Broome allow such a monstrosity to blight their towns... No way. They would be marching the streets protesting against such an assault yet the hillbilly's of Cairns don't know what they have until its gone.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people will leave due to this? I am not sure it will add as any people as they say, rather change the people that live here.

Seems strange the project has got this far.

Hamish Krint said...

I like the idea of making the natives fork up $500 at the door before they enter the casino, so that they are not broke when they leave. That will test Aquis who say that the casinos are for visitors. After all, the locals pump in $8 million into the existing pokies every month - enough damage done already!

Anonymous said...

Interesting point anon 10:13 although no one would give a rats about it of course. I know I'll be getting out of here after thirty-five years of calling Cairns home when I retire.

Peter W said...

Thanks heaps HBW, keep sussing out this dodgy project and those supporting it. I'll be writing big EIS response to give it a hard time.