The privatised facility is expected to fetch upwards of $30 million.
“There’s been good interest. Encouragingly, there’s been local interest, we’ve also had interest from abroad as well, as far as Singapore,” said Harbour Manager Sean Blackwood.
That “local” interest included potential Queenscliff and Geelong-based buyers, he confirmed.
However, the sale has prompted calls for public money invested in the venture to be handed back and has raised renewed concerns about another possible expansion push.
The harbour was controversially leased in 2006 for 49 years to Queenscliff Harbour Pty Ltd, a consortium headed by Doug Rathbone. The lease was extended to 60 years in 2014.
Mr Rathbone is understood to own 50 percent of the business. The founder of the Rathbone Wine Group - which owns Victoria's oldest vineyard Yering Station, was in 2012 appeared on the Financial Review Rich List in 2012 with an estimated wealth of $215 million.
Searoad Ferries Director John Barnes and developer Peter Sidwell share the remaining harbour stake.
According to Mr Blackwood, the company had invested around $40 million towards what is now a “very profitable,” business.
“I don’t think the sale is so much about the money, I think it’s more about the directors want to concentrate on other family-run interests,” he said.
The facility sits on 68,370 square metres and boasts 253 wet berths, 126 dry stacks - with a waiting list - and over 4,000 square metres of retail space.
Parks Victoria is among its tenants and three pilot services operate our of the marina.
The net operating income for 2021-2022 was more than $2.2 million.
A sales spiel describes the harbour as “one of Australia’s finest marinas,” with “significant expansion and value-added potential.”
The facility is zoned Special Use 1, and is subject to stringent planning controls that ruled out apartments and other ventures.
“There would be opportunities to re-model parts of the harbour, the boatyard and areas like that could be re-configured to provide more dry stacks and that kind of thing. That would still sit within the the permitted uses,” Mr Blackwood said.
“But the sale of the harbour is just the sale of the business, nothing changes around the special use zone and the permitted uses and exclusions. Any sort of changes would still need to go through all of the planning requirements with the planning authority, being the borough.
“There’s something like 21 prohibited uses and accommodation is one, a drive-in movie theatre is another, a supermarket is another, a newsagency is another [and] we can’t have a brothel. There’s a whole list of public uses and they’re pretty stringent, I mean you couldn’t whack up a hotel or anything like that,” he continued.
Point Lonsdale Civic Association (PLCA) president David Kenwood said those who had fought against the harbour’s privatisation would no the surprised that the owners were now looking to “cash in” on deal.
“The terms of the agreement allow the leaseholder to test the market for the lease or renegotiate the terms and conditions with Parks Victoria if they wish despite the fact that $7 million of public monies have already gone into the venture,” he said.
“Given the multi-millionaire owners now wish to depart, some local residents would also like to know what happens to the $2.3 million of State funding invested in the 2018 rebuilding of Fishermen's Wharf, which now forms part of the sale process.”