A derelict hotel that has blighted a prime location at one of Tasmania’s prettiest east-coast towns is set to be knocked down and replaced with an eco-development that includes accommodation for penguins.
- The rundown hotel on Tasmania’s east coast was bought by Tasmanian millionaire Jan Cameron in 2004.
- It fell into disrepair after closing its doors in 2015, much to the frustration of locals
- The new eco-development will feature 12 two-storey units and accommodation for penguins
The Silver Sands hotel at Bicheno was bought by enigmatic Tasmanian millionaire and Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron in 2002 and to the frustration of locals, has crumbled slowly after closing its doors in 2015.
Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor Robert Young said it was quite a drawcard in the 1960s but is a long way from that now.
“People think it’s a bit of an eyesore having fences around it and collapsing down,” he said.
“It’s a lovely spot with a beautiful view over the ocean and over the beach. It’s not quite in the middle of town but it is in a prominent position in Bicheno.”
Ms Cameron hired architects back in 2015 and lodged a development application (DA) for a new hotel on the site but it never happened.
New plans have now been lodged with the council for 12 two-storey units made from timber and metal, spaced along both sides of the site at Peggy’s Point.
According to the development application, the $5m development, known as The Rookery, will take great pains to ensure that the local little penguin population is not driven away or injured during construction.
Ms Cameron is understood to be modelling the development on Sea Stacks self-contained accommodation, also near Bicheno.
Birdlife Tasmania’s Eric Woehler has established guidelines for the construction, included in the DA, and said it was likely there were 10 breeding pairs of little penguins on the Silver Sands site.
To mitigate the impact on the birds, building will have to be done from April to August, outside the breeding season; fences will be constructed to let penguins out of the site but not back in; there will be no building from dusk to dawn and about 40 little nesting boxes will be built to give displaced penguins somewhere to live while the new development goes up.
Any sign of dead or injured penguins will have to be reported to the Parks and Wildlife Service, as will any interaction with live ones.
That includes elevated boardwalks with embedded nesting boxes underneath.
Jan Cameron has had a long history of investing, with mixed results.
She made her fortune — reported to be around $350m — founding the Kathmandu outdoor brand but lost a significant portion of it with her purchase of discount Tasmanian retailer Chickenfeed, which closed amid large losses and legal action in 2012.
She tried unsuccessfully to bid for Australia’s largest dairy company the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 2016 — then owned by a New Zealand council — and bought a large parcel of shares in the Tasmanian baby formula producer Bellamys, later taken over by a Chinese dairy company.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission laid charges over that investment, alleging Ms Cameron failed to fully disclose the extent of her shareholding, a claim she denies.
In Bicheno, Ms Cameron owns several properties but is known for biding her time.
In a 2016 interview about her first bid to redevelop the Silver Sands site, she told The Mercury newspaper: “My approach is to sit on something, wait for the right timing and then, when you feel the planets align, you do something”.
‘A bit of an eyesore’
Locals say they’ll be glad to see the old Silver Sands gone.
Michelle Bickmore has links to the seaside town going back two decades.
“When I first came to Bicheno, the Silver Sands was a source of life and it was an amazing place and it had such a great atmosphere,” she said.
John Smith has lived in Bicheno for 16 years.
“I get down here a fair bit and it would be nice to have it developed, have something there. It’s a bit of an eyesore at the moment,” he said.
Local mayor Robert Young also described the site as an eyesore.
“We are a tourist area and every bit of employment that we can get, both in conducting a tourist venue and even constructing the tourist venue to start with, is welcome.”
Any public opposition to the plans has to be lodged with the council by Friday, December 4.