Plans for a $200-million hotel and resort on a 5.1ha parcel of land in central Darwin has raised concerns due to its location on a sacred indigenous burial ground.
The development, dubbed The North One Hotel and Apartments, is planned for a vacant site at 25 Gilruth Avenue in The Gardens.
The site, bordered by Little Mindil Beach and Little Mindil Creek, is partially occupied by an existing car park and grassed area, and is zoned for tourist commercial and public open space.
The proposed development is being undertaken by Arthur Winston Investment and joint venture partner Kita Group.
The resort has been proposed on land currently owned by casino operator SkyCity Entertainment, which it purchased from the territory government in 2008.
At the time of the purchase, the then chief minister Paul Henderson said SkyCity had agreed to preserve Little Mindil, protect its creek and foreshore, and maintain public access to the beach from Bullocky Point.
SkyCity put the site on the market in 2019 shortly after selling its neighbouring Mindil Beach Casino Resort to US hospitality giant Delaware North for $188 million in a deal managed by Goldman Sachs.
AWI and Kita Group said they now had approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board to buy the Little Mindil site.
Plans, designed by Hachem Architects, are now before the NT government for four buildings; two rising seven-storeys and comprising a combined 16,000sq m, and two low-format single-storey villas comprising a combined 2600 square metres.
The resort will offer 131 hotel rooms and 53 serviced apartments within the two taller structures and 20 villas within the smaller buildings as well as 277 parking spaces.
While the proposal has been backed by industry groups Hospitality NT and Master Builders NT for its economic potential, it has been questioned as the proposed development sits on a sacred site registered by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
The joint venture partners said engagement would be ongoing with the Larrakia Nation to incorporate and acknowledge local custodians through naming, design and work opportunities.
Numerous burial sites were previously found in the adjacent Mindil Beach Casino Resort site and at Little Mindil Beach.
Principal archaeologist Silvano Jung said that despite being heavily disturbed, Little Mindil Beach may still have burial sites and that archaeological monitoring should be conducted during any ground disturbance.
“The developer will have to instigate an archaeological monitoring program for any ground disturbance work, at least to a depth of one metre, as there is a chance that prehistoric burials may still exist at the site,” Jung said.
“The site [also] has the potential to reveal information about Aboriginal funeral practices and the early Chinese settlement of Darwin.”
As part of the plans for the site, 4800sq m of open space will be provided in order to protect “prescribed” archaeological places and objects.
The application is with the terrirtory’s development consent authority and on public exhibition, If approved, the development could be completed by 2025.