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Andrew Forrest plans to convert pristine Ningaloo Reef site into multi-million dollar resort

Andrew Forrest plans to convert pristine Ningaloo Reef site into multi-million dollar resort
December 11, 2019

Mining industrialist, Andrew Forrest has a $100 million plan to convert the pristine Ningaloo Reef site, a Western Australian World Heritage area into a luxury eco-tourism resort.

Forrest advised that he planned to transform a run-down caravan park opposite Ningaloo Reef into a luxury ecotourism resort, which would be promoted to Asian tourists along with an outback experience at his family property, Minderoo Station.

With his plans to invest in marine research and tourism, the ABC reports that Forrest is emerging as one of the most influential people in Western Australia's pristine Ningaloo World Heritage area.

Considered to be one of Australia's wealthiest men with an estimated wealth of almost $12 billion, ABC reports that Forrest has also established a marine research centre for his Flourishing Oceans project at the Ningaloo Centre in nearby Exmouth, pledging to spend $2.5 million on capital works and invest heavily in research.

Forrest, the founder of Fortescue Metals Group who has made the bulk of his wealth from the resources industry, has a personal interest in marine biology and will graduate with a PhD from the University of Western Australia, for his thesis entitled Pelagic Ecology and Solutions for a Troubled Ocean.

The Shire of Exmouth Chief Executive Cameron Woods told the ABC that "The proposed investment by Mr Forrest will be transformational to Exmouth and this region.

"The resort will meet accommodation gaps in the market whilst offering something for everyone with world class eco-resort facilities unique to the natural landscape."

Forrest bought the caravan park site in 2017 and has also acquired neighbouring property, some of which was previously unallocated Crown land.

Forrest's wider investment in the Ningaloo area, 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, has been strongly supported by the Shire of Exmouth.

According to the ABC, Shire of Exmouth council recently voted to give his philanthropic company, Minderoo Foundation, a 39-year lease for its marine research headquarters at the Ningaloo Centre, in exchange for the peppercorn rental of $1 a year.

The centre could also host international conferences and researchers, attracted to the internationally renowned ecosystems around the Ningaloo Reef.

Woods said Forrest's investment could help the region attract more international tourists noting "Our feedback through the Minderoo Foundation is that he's going to take it to the Asian market, so he wants to build an environmental eco-resort and obviously tie in his Minderoo Foundation, his Minderoo Station, with some kind of outback experience — because that's a 20-minute Cessna flight from Exmouth.

Fewer than 3,000 people live in Exmouth but the population can double in the tourist season, when people flock to the isolated region to experience its wild, natural beauty and biodiversity, including the opportunity to swim with the world's biggest fish, the whale shark.

While many locals have welcomed Forrest's interest in the Ningaloo region, they told the ABC they wanted to know exactly what types of accommodation he planned to offer, and for how many people, at the environmentally sensitive site.

Initial planning documents presented to the Shire of Exmouth and advertised for public comment have raised concerns among environmentalists and WA Government bodies.

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage pointed out that the proposed three-storey buildings were contrary to planning rules, which dictated single-level buildings.

The ABC also reported that “The Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Advisory Committee, which advises the WA Government on how to manage the site, highlighted its concerns about the potential impact of the development on turtle populations.

“It was especially alarmed at the potential of lighting from the development to disturb mating turtles and also disorient turtle hatchlings looking for the sea.

A Minderoo Group spokesman told the ABC that the company would adhere to all the relevant planning and environmental frameworks.

"Minderoo Group is committed to protecting turtles and turtle nesting habitats.”

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23rd May 2019 - Ningaloo Whale Sharks inspire Festival and Conference

30th January 2019 - Research shows industrialisation will threaten the survival of Ningaloo humpback whales

6th March 2018 - Western Force to return in new international rugby union series

31st August 2017 - Andrew Forrest tells ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne to resign over Western Force axing

17th April 2017 - No opening date in sight for Ningaloo Centre and Aquarium

8th September 2016 - Researchers call for tighter controls on Ningaloo Reef manta ray experiences

18th August 2016 - Swimming with humpbacks begins at Ningaloo Reef

8th December 2015 - Sal Salis given license to swim with humpbacks at Ningaloo Reef

3rd November 2015 - Swimming with humpback whales to be trialled at Ningaloo Marine Park

4th July 2011 - WA welcomes Ningaloo Coast’s World Heritage listing

18th January 2010 - World Heritage nomination for Ningaloo

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