Aug 13, 2008

Fate of the Southern Islands

Today's article about the fate of the Southern Islands suggested a review of plans and developments on Kusu, St John's, the Sisters Islands, Kias, Lazarus and Seringat ...

Southern islands at crossroads
Fate of eco-paradise in the balance after fervent champion's departure
Serene Goh, Straits Times 13 Aug 08;

THE vision of the southern islands as an eco-paradise hangs in the balance with the departure of their champion, Mrs Pamelia Lee.

Sentosa Leisure Group (SLG) announced last week that Mrs Lee would be 'stepping aside' as managing director of the six-island cluster after 17 years on the project.

Her last day was July 31. The group's management has yet to announce a successor, or if there would even be one.

Pundits and eco-enthusiasts have raised concerns about whether the next head will share Mrs Lee's passion for nature conservation.

Last year, The Straits Times reported rumours in the tourism industry of a possible third casino to be housed on the islands - Kusu, St John's, the Sisters Islands, Kias, Lazarus and Seringat - perhaps by 2016.

It was a move Mrs Lee opposed. She felt the unspoilt nature of the islands could be preserved while generating revenue through eco-getaways or boutique residences.

When asked, the 66-year-old tourism veteran shied from hints that a difference of opinion had led to her parting ways with the group.

SLG also declined to comment on this at its low-key farewell for Mrs Lee, and remained tight-lipped about plans for the Southern Islands.

It would only say: 'There is no change to how the development is being handled and we will provide an update at an appropriate time.'

Mrs Lee had led efforts to lay the islands' basic infrastructure for development, including reclamation works, island links as well as the construction of a submarine trench for power cables, all completed in 2006.

She told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday that she had hoped to place the project, finally, in the 'gentle hands' of a developer who would undertake construction that would 'fit, not fight' the green environment there, a counterpoint to Sentosa's playground for the masses.

New inhabitants might be happy to walk, ride bicycles and dwell in houses 'no taller than coconut trees', she said, 'or stop and watch a sunset or a hermit crab running on the sand'.

In December 2006, investors voiced concerns that it would be complicated to maintain the islands' pristine environments while generating maximum yields, Mrs Lee said then.

Then in April last year, the Southern Islands' development was put on ice, with little explanation from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). The temples on Kusu and St John's swimming lagoons and trekking routes were left as existing attractions.

More than a year later, this delay has become the reason for Mrs Lee's departure.

With the islands' infrastructure completed, her work is done. Further developments of the islands can proceed only in tandem with a concrete plan from a developer.

The fate of the Southern Islands lies in the hands of SLG's new CEO Mike Barclay (Sentosa press release about Mike Barclay, PDF file). He takes over on Aug 25.

What were the developments to these southern islands?

Kias and Seringat used to be submerged reefs like Cyrene Reefs.
from the Southern Islands Development Guide Plan (DGP) 1996

These submerged reefs were buried and reclaimed to form Kias-Seringat through reclamation completed in 2000.Lazarus Island was connected to St. John's island by a causeway.

In 2000, the plan was to offer visitors a Mediterranean resort-like setting only 17 minutes away by ferry, patterned after Italy's renowned vacation spot, Capri. Details later revealed included plans for a five-star 290-room hilltop hotel, a three-star 170-room beachfront hotel, 70 waterfront homes and 1,700 units of housing. (from Various plans for Southern Islands, by Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper, 31 Mar 04)

When plans for the Integrated Resort on Sentosa was announced in 2004, "an MTI spokesman said these plans for the Southern Islands will be 'reviewed'". At that time, there was even talk of a road from Sentosa to the islands, or a causeway, like the one linking the mainland and Jurong Island. (from Road to link Sentosa to St. John's Island? by Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper, 31 Mar 04)

In 2004 it was announced: "Soon you may be able to sun-tan on a pristine new beach a short ferry ride away. Given that trash is often found on mainland beaches, you'll be glad to know that an 800-metre long beach on Pulau Seringat in the southern islands is almost complete." (Our newest man-made beach, by Teh Jen Lee The New Paper, 24 Sep 04)

Thousands of cubic metres of sand were imported from Indonesia to make the beach. The sand was checked for sandfly eggs so that visitors will be spared the insect's bites, which can be itchy. Another $120 million was spent to bring water, electricity, gas and telecommunication infrastructure from Sentosa to the islands. (from The newly redeveloped St John's and Lazarus islands have beautiful beaches and sparkling waters, by Teh Jen Lee The New Paper 2 Dec 06)

In 2006, massive landscaping was reported of the 1km reclaimed beach on Lazarus to simulate a natural environment so that it would look 'natural and wild'. 5,000 lorry-loads of soil measuring two storeys high when piled up were brought in by barges, an entire coconut plantation in Malaysia was bought, about 1, 000 trees was trucked and shipped to the island. To meet the 36 cubic metres of water needed every day to keep the plants growing, a 400-sq-m-wide pond was created to collect rainwater and ground water tapped. This was part of the $60 million worth of reclamation and infrastructure work on the southern islands of Pulau Seringat, Kias, St John's, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters' islands. (from Lazarus beach makeover wins firm top landscaping award, by Tan Hui Yee The Straits Times 13 Dec 06)

In Dec 06, it was announced that Singapore Tourism Board (STB) may launch a request for concepts, possibly in the first quarter of 2007. One idea is to develop the islands into a 'premium resort', a getaway for the rich. Other ideas include eco-tourism and cultural tourism, and even possibly a third casino in Singapore, although it is not known if STB would consider offering a casino licence to any developer of the islands. (from The newly redeveloped St John's and Lazarus islands have beautiful beaches and sparkling waters, by Teh Jen Lee The New Paper 2 Dec 06)

More media articles

Investor feedback to plans for Southern Islands, Dec 06
  • No new plans for Kusu temple despite resort move
    Ansley Ng, Today Online 1 Dec 06
  • All powered up and ready for offers, Infrastructure in place, time is right to attract investors, Serene Goh, The Straits Times 1 Dec 06
  • Targetting nature lovers and the well-heeled, The Straits Times 1 Dec 06
  • Investors give positive feedback to the Southern Islands' development, May Wong, Channel NewsAsia 30 Nov 06
Playground of the rich, Nov 06
  • Southern Islands may be next big tourist attraction, One plan being considered: Make them a getaway for the rich, Krist Boo, The Straits Times 29 Nov 06
  • STB plans to develop Southern Islands into tourist attraction, Jeana Wong Channel NewsAsia 29 Nov 06
  • Kusu: Playground of the rich? Tourism Board looks into ideas to develop S'pore's six southern islands to attract the super-rich, Ansley Ng, Today Online 29 Nov 06
  • Southern Islands could be premium resort: STB, Super-exclusive haven for billionaires, location for third casino are some possibilities, Arthur Sim, The Business Times (Singapore) 29 Nov 06
Third casino? Jan 07
  • Asia's mini-Monaco by 2015? STB to put out feelers for interest in developing the Southern Islands into an exclusive yet accessible resort, third IR unlikely, Tor Ching Li, Today Online 19 Jan 07
  • Southern Islands home to third IR? Smaller, more luxurious resort will feature F&B, spa, health and beauty facilities
  • By Arthur Sim, Business Times Singapore 18 Jan 07

[update: Sentosa announces new shore attractions in 2009 and new master plan by end of the year. More on the wild shores of singapore blog]


Anonymous said...

All this news seriously gives me the creeps.

SJ said...

I don't like where this is going... more places for the rich and less places for the nature-lovers and less homes for the critters...