September 8, 2014

 By Robert Harley

The Johnson Property Group will this week lodge a formal application for one of the largest new developments in regional NSW since the financial crisis.

The group has long planned a marina ,a resort and housing, with an end value near $700 million, at Trinity Point on Lake Macquarie.

Trinity Point is close enough to Sydney, but far enough away,” Managing Director Keith Johnson said, explaining the logic of the resort.

The plans will go to Lake Macquarie City Council this week. They include a 188-berth marina, a 60-room hotel with restaurant and function facilities, 255 apartments and 196 housing blocks. Total cost would be around $388 million, which Mr Johnson said was “fully funded” out of Hong Kong.

The backing is important. Despite the surge of finance for new inner-city apartments, funding for regional land development remains limited.

“Nothing is happening; you can’t get money,”Mr Johnson said.

The Johnson Property Group is one of the largest private land developers in NSW, with a pipeline of around 5000 blocks, and estates at Vermont, in Sydney’s north-west, at Wahroonga in the city’s north and in the Hunter.

But it was hard hit by the collapse of NSW housing and the GFC, and fell into administration for 60 days in 2011.

“We worked hard to recover from the tough times,”Mr Johnson said.

“We worked with the banks and had huge support from our creditors, but it has taken until this year.”

The group already has concept approval for Trinity Point, granted by the previous NSW government against strong local opposition keen to retain the existing character of the Morisset peninsula. Mr Johnson said the new application, designed by Squillace Architects, included “some amendments to the concept plan”.

The mayor of Lake Macquarie City Council, Jodie Harrison, said the council’s response would depend on the degree to which the application varied from the state government approved concept plan.

Councillor Harrison is now the Labor candidate in the by election for the state seat of Charlestown. She said the council was focused on both job creation, with tourism an obvious growth sector, and on preserving the city’s beautiful environment “It’s a balancing issue,” she said.

Mr Johnson hopes to start selling land later this year and to start building early next year with the hotel to open in 2016.

“I believe it is a big plus to the community,” he said.

He has already introduced an number of operators to the hotel and the restaurant and function facilities.

“NSW lacks romance and this is a site that can really bring romance,” he said. “We intend people to come to this site to get married.”

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