One of Merlin Entertainments Group's world-famous properties.
One of Merlin Entertainments Group's world-famous properties. Contributed

Tourism giant has plans for Wharf

GLOBAL tourism operator Merlin Entertainments Group is remaining tight-lipped about plans for Mooloolaba Wharf and UnderWater World.

Merlin, the world's second largest tourist attraction operator after Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, owns 87 properties globally, including the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Legoland, the Melbourne and Sydney Aquariums and Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts.

It acquired the Mooloolaba attractions as part of its $140 million takeover of the James Packer-controlled Living and Leisure Australia Group.

Mooloolaba operations head Richard Barram said yesterday the group's focus was very much on what could be done to improve the guest experience and ensure it delivered memorable days out for its visitors.

"We are currently reviewing plans for both UnderWater World and Mooloolaba Wharf and as soon as we are in a position to announce these, we will be working with all relevant parties to bring these to life," Mr Barram said.

Requests for more information about the scope of any redevelopment and the time frames involved went unanswered.

The Daily understands that tenants of the Mooloolaba Wharf complex are on month by month agreements.

Those of the adjacent marina complex have five and 10-year agreements.

Businesses operating in the complex have received no advice about future plans.

Merlin Entertainments Group, valued at $4 billion, attracted 41 million guests to its facilities in 2010, making it the second-most visited theme park operator behind Disney.

The Wharf complex still has 34 years to run on its 50-year State Government lease.

It attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year but what future role it would play in the redevelopment of the Spit precinct has remained uncertain.

Sunshine Coast Council has yet to receive an application for redevelopment of the site, which is a critical element of the Mooloolaba Spit Master Plan.

Divisional councillor Chris Thompson said any application would be subject to current planning provisions, which include a three-storey height limit.

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