An agreement has been reached to secure the long-term future of The Dunes golf course near Port Hughes on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula.
The high-profile development, including a Greg Norman-designed golf course, went into receivership last year. (see story below)
But in February, the new developers Rural Bank transferred the golf course to the Copper Coast Council in a bid to revitalise it.
The bank has endorsed a 21-year lease between the Council and the newly-formed Copperclub Golf and Community Association.
Council chief executive Peter Harder said the lease was an important step towards a secure future for the golf course.
"We are pleased to work with the newly-formed association and look forward to a long and constructive relationship with them," he said.
Chairman Richard Freer said the association was hoping the community would get behind the golf course and its operations.
"We will continue to work towards securing a viable long-term future for the golf course to provide certainty to The Dunes residents and the local community, in addition to golf club members," he said.
"The success of the golf club will continue to rely on the support of existing members and the local community and it is encouraging to see the extent to which they are already getting behind the arrangement."
WHEN Greg Norman backed a $750 million golf resort for the coastal town of Port Hughes, many believed it would put the Yorke Peninsula on the map.
The Dunes development was to feature 2000 homes and a resort style hotel abutting an 18-hole PGA standard golf course designed by the Great White Shark.
But the future of the project is in doubt with the developers going into receivership in July 2012 with debts of $13 million, just 100 blocks of land sold and the championship golf course incomplete. Meanwhile tee bookings are available for 9 holes at the Copperclub course, and real estate sales continue.
Now investors, contractors and the community are left wondering where it all went wrong.
Port Hughes resident Barry Schulz said the warning signs were there from the beginning; the development was too large and ambitious for the coastal Yorke Peninsula town.
"It was the wrong project at the wrong time in the wrong place," the long-term resident said.
"At the time, we were in the middle of a drought. There was no water available for it, and here's this approval for this huge unnecessary golf course."
Others blame the global financial crisis and sluggish consumer sentiment.
Auditors have confirmed the developer, Irishman Peter Butterly, was struggling with more than a $1 million dollars in land tax debt while receiver Ferrier Hodgson revealed late in the week the development owed about $9 million to banks and about $2 million to trade debtors and the Australian Tax Office.
"There's a significant amount of money that's gone into this project," Ferrier Hodgson partner David Kidman said.
"This development was always planned to take many years, it's just hit a little speed bump."
About 60 homes have been built or are under construction at The Dunes.
The first nine holes of the golf course opened to players in June 2011, managed by Troon.
Property Council of Australia SA executive director Nathan Paine said many broadacre developers were having problems selling land allotments and were left with large land tax bills.
"In these times we are seeing consumers and first homebuyers not getting out there buying properties," he said, adding it was a buyers' market.
One of the first to move into The Dunes, Jeff Adams, said he was saddened by the news the development had been put into receivership but it had not shaken his confidence in the project.
"Two years ago there were no houses here and now there's probably 50 or 60 which, in this economic climate, is unbelievable," he said, adding about 50 more homes were contracted to start construction by November.
The 59-year-old said he knew of at least one person who had gone through with a purchase at The Dunes even after hearing this week's news.
"Some other consortium will take over this place in six months and they'll cash in on it," he said.
Copper Coast District Council Mayor Paul Thomas said locals were surprised by the extent of the problems with the development but he was hopeful a new buyer would be found.
In the meantime he said it seemed "business as usual" at the resort.
"People are still playing on the golf course, the sales office is open, the restaurant is open, there are builders there building houses," Mr Thomas said.
Mason Gray Strange auctioneer and valuer Andrew Maros said other contractors, planners, surveyors and those involved in the foundation infrastructure might be left out of pocket.
About three months ago, Mr Butterly approached Zoos SA president Kevin McGuinness as a consultant on how to bring the project back on track.
While he would not comment on the content of his report, Mr McGuinness said it highlighted "the seriousness of the issues", including high costs of land tax.