Proposed Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort

Proposed Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort

Chinese developer Tony Fung is proposing a large casino and integrated tourism development at Yorkey’s Knob, Cairns. This project is at the initial proposal stage and does not yet have any of the approvals it would need to go ahead.

The site is mostly existing cane farms (about 353 hectares total) with some areas of mangrove and other vegetation.

This $4.2 billion project, known as Aquis Great Barrier Reef resort, would include:

  • 3,750 hotel rooms across 9 luxury hotel brands;
  • 1,180 managed apartments;
  • 135 managed villas;
  • An international class casino with 1,500 gaming machines and 750 gaming tables;
  • One of the world’s largest aquariums;
  • 13,500m2 of high-end retail shopping;
  • A 25,000 seat sports stadium;
  • A 45,000m2 convention and exhibition centre;
  • A 65 hectare estuarine lagoon, approximately 4 metres deep;
  • 2 x 25,000 seat theatres;
  • A cultural heritage centre;
  • An 18 hole golf course; and
  • A large-scale water theme fun park.

The project has been declared a ‘Coordinated Project’ by the Queensland Coordinator General which means that it will have a streamlined assessment process by the State Government.

Draft Terms of Reference for the Environmental impact Statement (EIS) have just been released and are open for comment until 9 September 2013. We encourage people to read over these and make a submission if they have concerns.

Proposed Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort

Proposed Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort

Environmental concerns:

Water quality

  • The project is located on the Barron River floodplain adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, and is likely to have water quality impacts on the reef.
  • There are concerns about saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers due to the creation of the saltwater lake in an area where the water table to high.
  • The golf course is likely to result in contaminated runoff – fungicides & herbicides used on golf courses have the potential to damage freshwater and marine communities.
  • The project will alter water flow in Yorkey’s, Richters and Thomatis Creeks and there is potential for contamination of these water courses.


  • Concerns about infestation of weeds and pests in the saltwater lagoon.
  • Areas of mangroves and riparian vegetation may be cleared for the project, reducing quality of available habitat.

Coastal processes

  • Given projected sea level rise and increased intensity of cyclones, is a low-lying coastal area in a floodplain really an appropriate location for such a development?
  • Placing infrastructure of this scale in such a vulnerable area will increase the chances of future requests for engineering solutions to mitigate flooding and storm surge damage, and these engineering solutions have high environmental costs.
  • The Barron River mouth is dynamic and could shift in a major flood event. Thomatis Creek was once the dominant waterway for the delta.
  • The project may result in silting of the mouth of the Thomatis Creek from the lagoon outfall.

Social concerns:

  • If it went ahead, the project is of a scale that would transform not just Yorkey’s Knob, but all of Cairns. To give an indication of scale, there would be 9,000 construction workers required, the majority of these would be from outside the region and would require housing. Property prices would likely increase, as would rental costs as demand for housing increased.
  • Rates for properties in Yorkey’s Knob would most likely increase as property values increase, meaning that for some people it may no longer be viable to live in the area.
  • Further gaming machines would encourage gambling,a known cause of social problems in the community.
  • The project would have significant impacts on visual amenity, with building heights of around 80 metres.

Further information:

Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort website

Draft Terms of Reference and Initial Advice Statement

About Coordinated Projects