China’s Ministry of Culture has listed a developer’s planned Gold Coast theme park as a “key cultural trade and investment project”.
The proposed Australian Legend World at Nerang, to be developed by Chinese theme park giant Songcheng at a cost of more than $400 million, will be the company’s first overseas theme park.
In a notice posted on the ministry’s website late last week, the planned theme park was listed at No.11 among 40 other government projects around the world, affiliated with One Belt One Road, assessed as top priorities for the ministry.
“Local culture bureaus are required to conduct guidance and supervise the implementation of the projects on the list,” it said.
“[They will also] follow up the development and accelerate toward the development of the cultural trades in the One Belt One Road Initiative.”
Australian Legend World – which, until the statement, had only been billed as an “entertainment park” – is set to host a variety of Australian and Chinese cultural and historical performances.
It is unclear what relation the park will play in being “key” to the Chinese initiative’s global trade routes or investment ambitions – neither the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade nor the Chinese Ministry of Culture were available for comment.
Roland Evans, managing director of the Canford Property Group and Songcheng’s spokesman in Australia, said the listing did not mean China’s Ministry of Culture would be able to influence how the project operated.
“I don’t believe it does, but [the ministry] will keep obviously a close eye that it mirrors what the constraints of the One Road One Belt system is.”
He said both Chinese and Australian consultants had thus far been engaged in the creation of the shows that would be performed at the theme park.
New Chinese investment rules no issue
The plans for the park also include housing for up to 2000 residents, including a high-rise development – it will also feature one of the world’s largest indoor ski fields.
While an illustration of the proposed park released a couple years ago showed plans for a controversial fibreglass version of Uluru, Mr Evans said that feature had since been dropped from the project.
The listing of projects under the One Belt One Road initiative comes despite China’s efforts to scale back on overseas real estate investments.
China announced new corporate investment guidelines last year that restricted real estate deals, as well as “irrational” investments in foreign entertainment companies.
Mr Evans said the park’s listing as part of the Belt and Road initiative is a sign from the Chinese government that the proposal abides by its new investment rules.
“The Songcheng entertainment park has a fundamental cultural experience, and therefore the [Ministry of Culture] has decreed that this investment is allowed,” he said.
Professor Fitzgerald added that companies may be looking to One Belt One Road initiative as “a form of insurance”.
“This listing suggests Chinese firms are looking to [One Belt One Road] listing as a form of insurance for projects at risk of Chinese government cancellation, or for projects that may not be financially viable without Beijing’s endorsement,” he said.
‘We’re delighted’ to be on list: Gold Coast Mayor
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate welcomed China’s decision to list the project.
“We’re delighted the Chinese government has included this project on their Belt and Road list,” Mr Tate said in a statement.
“Our city’s relationship with China is built on trust as well as Council’s ability to minimise red tape, while still ensuring all environmental and development guidelines are adhered to.
“I look forward to seeing this theme park development progress as it will bring significant financial and social benefits for our city.”
The project has courted controversy in the local community – more than 300 objections to the planned theme park have been lodged with the Gold Coast City Council, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported last month.
The council is set to vote on whether the proposal will go ahead later this year.