Abbot Point approval a win for local property market

Abbot Point approval a win for local property market

Posted on Wednesday, December 11 2013 at 3:18 PM

The approval of the Abbot Point coal terminal at Bowen is expected to have a significant impact on both property and businesses in the local area, with real estate agents saying the market has suffered as a result of the uncertainty around the port.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt yesterday approved the expansion of the
terminal, which is expected to be one of the largest in the world.

Despite backlash from conservationists and green groups, real estate
agents in the Bowen township see the development as a boon to the local economy
and a milestone that will reduce the risk around the property market.

Bowen LJ Hooker principal Tony Doyle says the announcement removes the
uncertainty for investors.

“I do believe it might take another few months to settle down before
people start making investment decisions, but there’s now a good long-term
future in Bowen,” he says.

“They’ll be building here for years now. That will be good for the town.
It’s certainly good news for everybody. It’s just been so frustrating in the
lead up to this.

“I believe it will definitely put confidence back in the market. We’ve
got a lot of clients who have said ‘oh if it happens I’ll probably come and buy
something, but the way it is now, why would I? It’s too much of a risk’.”

Doyle says a very high vacancy rate currently exists in Bowen, which
will be difficult to overcome and is a result of hype around the anticipated
expansion over the past 12 months.

“This announcement may see some investors come back to the market but
the last 12 months has probably been the hardest 12 months in real estate that
I’ve been in for 30 years,” he says.

“I think this project has been talked about for such a long time and
we’ve all been to more industry forums than I’ve had hot breakfasts and it’s
now the end of 2013, but this was all supposed to happen in 2012.

“We still don’t have people out there swinging hammers, this is just an
approval. So what’s happened is all the marketing companies got on the band
wagon for the last two years and went crazy and put out some fairly outrageous
investment seminars around the country and we ended up with what we have today
– a vacancy rate that’s probably the highest on the east coast of Australia.

“We’ve got 270 vacant properties in Bowen today and that will be 300 by
February, which would equate to about 25 per cent. So there’s no joy there for
investors. It’s been a hard slog. This is as bad as it gets.

“My take is that it will be a very slow and gradual change. They aren’t
going to build the biggest coal port in the world in 12 months.

“If they brought 500 men to town, that would only fill up the vacancy.
We’ve got that much vacant property and also we have a construction camp.
Nothing much is going to change here for the next 12 months.

“There are a lot of people coming and going all the time, so they aren’t
going to take 12-month leases on houses.”

Doyle says the previous expansion at the port saw an influx of about 700
people with little impact on housing.

“There has already been an expansion of the port and we’ve been through
this once before with 600 or 700 men in town, of which we only rented about 40
or 50 houses.”

According to Doyle, the real estate industry has been given an
undertaking by industry that they won’t be buying up land or building any
additional houses for employees.

“We’ve already had an undertaking from the companies that they won’t
come to town and buy subdivisions and build houses. They’ve told us that in no
uncertain terms.

“At the peak of this construction there could be 2000 people here, but when the construction is finished it’s about 20 so they
don’t’ want to create an artificial market for one or two years and then

Doyle says locally there’s only a minority of people in the township who
are against the expansion.

“There’s a very small minority who aren’t happy about it. On a ratio of
100 I’d say there are about 99 who are in favour of it.

“These workers do get time off and they spend it in the town, so they’re
great for the town and the local businesses.”

Bowen Chamber of Commerce chairman Bruce Heddich has told
the ABC he’s thrilled about the announcement.

“Bowen, being adjacent to Abbot Point, is the real winner
in this decision. It can only go well for the future of the town,” he says.

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