The private Chinese company Landbridge which controversially bought the Port of Darwin for $506 million has been granted approval to build a $200 million luxury hotel nearby.
The 2015 port deal sparked concerns about national security and the US government complained it should have been consulted given its military presence in the Top End capital.
Landbridge, which is heavily indebted, also plans to build residential apartments on the site and invest a lot more money expanding the size of the port and logistics infrastructure, the cruise ship terminal and building a sea wall.
Landbridge Australia vice-president Mike Hughes said he hoped that after the initial criticism of two-and-a-half years ago people realised the company’s investments had been a sensible, commercial one that had been good for Darwin.
“I certainly would like our actions to speak for themselves in terms of what we’ve done in terms of local investment and local jobs at the port,” he told reporters.
The restarting of manganese exports and start of gas exports due this year from the major Inpex offshore project indicated the port’s performance would improve next year, he said.
The luxury Westin-branded hotel, which is due to be completed in 2021, was well-timed given the recent start of direct flights between Darwin and China, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters.
The announcement also occurred with numerous business interests and Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye in Darwin during a three-day conference to promote China’s “One Belt One Road” strategy.
The government, which will invest $17 million in a skywalk to connect the new hotel to the CBD, retained a 20 per cent stake in the port and was comfortable with Landbridge’s investments, he said.
“We have got 250,000 people across 1.3 million sq km and we can’t do it alone (grow the economy), we have got to do it in partnerships,” Mr Gunner said.
“We have to actually have public sector investment in the Territory and that includes foreign investment.”
The project is expected to create up to 500 jobs for Territorians during construction and a further 150 jobs ongoing in operation and local businesses who can tender for contracts.