A $100 MILLION six-star hot springs spa hotel and retreat, powered by renewable energy and highlighting traditional Aboriginal culture, is planned on the secluded southern shores of Lake Wellington.
NunDuk, as the project is called — Gunnai-Kurnai for “the bark of a tree” — will be located on the 2480 hectare sheep farm of the developer, James Troedel, through he and his son Harry’s development company, Seacombe West.
It will consist of 36 luxury rooms in the main hotel, 45 rooms in villa units, plus restaurants, spas, treatment rooms, galleries, lounges and a deck.
The project is aimed at visitors who want health and wellness, coupled with wildlife tourism.
It will be the only six-star resort in regional Victoria.
The complex, located on 9.7ha, will be built three metres off the ground to cater for floods and will be set back 120m from the lake foreshore.
The flood level is 2.2m.
The broader development is spread over 80ha.
The hotel is expected to generate more than 100 permanent jobs, 67 jobs during construction and will create an annual economic impact of about $25 million in Gippsland.
There will also be demand for ancillary businesses such as tour operators, and produce and service suppliers.
International operators will run the resort, which will draw warm water for the hot spas from a 65 degree geothermal source 1300m below the surface.
The company has a permit from Southern Rural Water to drill.
Mr Troedel told the Gippsland Times the resort was aimed at the luxury tourism market, which was widespread internationally but little known in Australia.
Rooms are expected to cost about $1500 a night, with half the visitors international tourists.
Three leading tourists companies - Six Senses, Goco Spa and Banyan Tree Spa - are interested in the project.
Mr Troedel said he and Harry were strong believers in sustainability, aiming to develop in a more ‘climate-friendly’ way.
“Zero carbon emissions are a guiding principle,” he said.
On-site renewable energy will make the complex entirely self-sufficient.
A bank of solar panels will generate 500 kilowatts of power, with biodiesel generators as back-up.
There will be integrated water cycle management, with water captured, used, treated and re-used.
Seacombe West has collaborated closely with
Melbourne University in its concept of “regenerative
This describes processes that restore, renew or revitalise their own sources of energy and materials, creating sustainable systems that respect the integrity of nature.
From the south, the main hotel will be hardly visible as its roof will be landscaped, enabling animals such as kangaroos to graze on it.
Mr Troedel said an important aspect of the development was to champion the oldest culture in the world — Aboriginal culture, which had been neglected by Australian tourism.
There will be a cultural centre in the facility, which will also feature a ‘bush tucker’ trail highlighting the medicines and food the Aborigines used.
Mr Troedel said he had spoken with Gunai-Kurnai representatives about the concept.
A ranger will be employed to take people on wildlife tours, as the secluded property is surrounded by state park and has an abundance of bird and animal life.
Mr Troedel said salinity from the lake, arising from the permanent ocean access at Lakes Entrance, had damaged much of the soil and killed a lot of coastal scrub.
It had low environmental value but was still attractive, he said.
The resort would be built on this land, while surroundings would be regenerated.
Designers include Taylor Cullity Lethlean, which planned the award-winning Cranbourne Gardens.
Mr Troedel, who has farmed his property for 38 years, is a civil engineer and developer with a long career in construction and project management in the private and public sectors.
He was a project director in Victoria’s Major Projects Office for several years, overseeing the development of the Melbourne Convention Centre.
He was also a director for 14 years at the quantity surveyors Davis Langdon.
The NunDuk project has been advertised and is available for inspection through Wellington Shire Council.
Mr Troedel said the project had had strong support from the council and had been submitted to planning.
Support had also come from a variety of people and groups, including the Tourism Minister and Gippsland government authorities.
Seacombe West has spent $2.3 million to date on the project.
Planning approval could be finalised by the end of the year, followed by detailed design.
Construction would begin next May and be completed by December 2020.
The first tourists could move in during early 2021.