Stage set for $235m redevelopment of Morisset golf course

30th August 2019

Winarch Capital has lodged six development applications with Lake Macquarie council for the site's $235 million redevelopment, which analysts say could bring more than $790 million of economic benefit if approved.

The company's vision, driven by local resident and CVG Finance broker Paul Lambess, involves splitting the 92-hectare site into five precincts. Four of them, covering 72 hectares, would be developed straight away.

The most prominent part of Cedar Mill, as it has been titled, is a cultural, arts and events space.

The central 28-hectare area, which includes a 30,000-capacity amphitheatre that makes use of the site's natural landscape, could host festivals and trade shows with an attendance of up to 50,000 people.

An adjoining 10-hectare accommodation precinct would complement the major events space and incorporate cabins, caravans and camping.

At the front of the former golf course, the developers plan to make use of the existing clubhouse and create a nine-hectare family and community precinct with cafes, restaurants, a splash-park and gardens.

At the southern end of the site, approval is being sought for a 25-hectare lifestyle precinct that would allow for an over-55s style residential park. However, that land would be sold to a third-party to progress the project.

While the four proposed precincts fit under existing private recreation (RE2) zoning, a fifth - 20 hectares zoned environmental conservation (E2) - has been set aside for investigation.

The former Morisset Country Club, which was on a month-to-month lease, closed in May.

The club's directors appointed an administrator in the weeks leading up to the closure to wind up the business.

Club president Erica Ford said at the time disappointed members would respect the wishes of the landlord but many hoped the site would not be rezoned for housing.

"The land was bought as recreation land 30 years ago," she said, in reference to when the course was sold to a private owner in the 1980s.

Mr Lambess said Winarch Capital, which has an option on the site from owner Drysdale Metals, could have developed the site for up to "3000 or 4000" homes but wanted to create a place the community could embrace.

"As a father of a young family we want to create a true community destination that will be accessible to all of the local community and be a destination that will drive economic development for the region," he said.

"In developing our proposal we discovered it aligns with many of Lake Macquarie council's planning documents including the Night Time Economy Action PlanImagine Lake Mac 2050 ... and the Event and Festival Strategy.

"We are a strong believer in the Morisset community and we look forward to working with council to see this project become a reality."

The developer has drawn inspiration from tourism and hospitality sites around the world, with Cedar Mill described as a mix of a Hunter Valley winery, the North Byron Parklands and The Grounds of Alexandria.

As part of the proposal, most of the trees within the concert space will remain to provide shade.

Music industry experts have assessed the property and are understood to believe it could set a new benchmark for outdoor events in Australia.

The site is 600 metres away from Morisset train station, and the developer envisions some events that could even make use of Morisset Showground, which Lake Macquarie City Council is now managing.

Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said the site's proximity to the Sydney-Newcastle train line and M1 Motorway made it "ideal for this kind of investment".

"The plans for Cedar Mill are very ambitious and it is wonderful to see such a vision that will translate to more jobs and an ongoing injection into our local economy," she said.

The project has been assessed by economic development company, Dantia, to have an investment value of $235 million.

It predicts an economic contribution of $790 million during construction and $168 million annually once operational.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said the plans would be "embraced by the vast majority of people" in Morisset and the Hunter region.

"Some will be disappointed that the golf course is changing but I think the opportunities on offer are huge, especially for young people," he said.

"It's a great vision which could drive a lot of job creation and investment."

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