Screens & Feeders

Scratching the surface’ of legacy sites

In September there was a flurry of publicity about a decade-long development. The Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental Quarry Hotel was apparently opening its doors in October.

Numerous media outlets ran the story; we at Quarry didn’t.

The five-star sport- and recreation-oriented spa resort, comprising 19 floors (two underwater), is being built into the rock face of a 90-metre-deep, water-filled site in Shanghai, China.

The “groundscraper” was mooted in 2006 and construction began in 2016. In November 2017 Shimao Group released photos of the resort in construction and some sample rooms. When we last covered it, the hotel was due to open in May this year.

However, in the recent publicity bout, the information was largely old news. In fact, the accompanying graphics consisted of the same concept art that has done the rounds since 2006!

There were no photos that depicted the project as complete. In fact, all the publicity did was persuade me the hotel was no closer to fruition than a year ago (indeed, at time of writing, it’s late October and there have been no further announcements). I’ve vowed that the hotel won’t receive fresh coverage until a bona fide story confirms it really is open for business, or I’m invited to the opening – whichever comes first!

{{quote-A:R-W:300-Q:"As behind schedule as it may be, the Shimao Group Hotel still represents a novel example of a repurposed quarry."}}So, why am I writing about it? As behind schedule as it may be, Shimao Wonderland still represents a novel, eccentric example of a repurposed quarry. It also shows how entrepreneurial and imaginative the Chinese are in repurposing their legacy sites. By comparison, as Bruce Harvey – who presented at CMIC in September and is interviewed in this issue – says, Australia lacks that flair.

That’s not to say there aren’t positive developments here. The Hornsby Quarry spoil management project in Sydney, the “Quarry Gardens” project in Toowoomba and the redevelopment of the century-old Cave Hill Quarry in Lilydale, Victoria, into prime real estate are all positive examples of legacy sites being “regenerated” (to use Harvey’s words) as long-term economic assets for their neighbouring communities.

However, to paraphrase Harvey, the industry is barely “scratching the surface”. Quarries around the world have been adapted as fish farms, hydro pump projects, concert venues, adventure playgrounds, business parks and, once Shimao Wonderland opens, luxury accommodation. So why is Australia (and its extractive industry) not exploiting the opportunities legacy sites present?

Commercial viability is a factor; it doesn’t help that our national government’s diffidence on infrastructure, environment and energy is stymieing business confidence. The hesitancy to innovate also seems to be ingrained in our culture – as someone said to me earlier this year, “Australians in general like to be second,” to “see and hear” how things work first.

Perhaps it’s time we think about quarries as long-term assets. While (as Harvey says) it’s unrealistic to expect a new site’s post-life use to be determined before it is approved, there is no doubt producers must persuade their local communities of the importance of quarries as economic assets – not only as active sites, but beyond their working lives.

I’m happy to wait for my invitation from Shimao Wonderland. At this rate, it will very probably be after Collingwood (the vanquished finalist in the recent AFL decider) wins its next premiership!

But to quote Confucius (and former Collingwood and West Coast Eagles premiership coach Michael Malthouse channelling that guru): “The ox is slow but the earth is patient!” 


Update – 3 December 2018

The Intercontinental Shimao Wonderland hotel is now open for business. That particular 'ox' was faster than anticipated. Fresh off the outcome of the 2018 AFL Grand Final, the Collingwood Magpies have sadly been beaten to the punch again!

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