After the sudden withdrawal of The Block from country Victoria last month, producers for Nine’s renovation ratings juggernaut have reportedly bought a $10 million resort on Phillip Island for the 20th anniversary season.
Located two hours south-west of Melbourne, the one-hectare Island Cove Villas was snapped up on September 8 on Phillip Island which has a wild coastline (a great white shark was spotted at Cape Woolamai over the weekend), holiday cabins, the motorbike grand prix and the international award-winning penguin parade.
The Block is about to bring a whole new set of logistics, traffic management and competition to the island that was once a surfing mecca for the celebrity Hemsworth family, and a hideaway for youngest brother Liam and his former wife Miley Cyrus.
Is this good news or bad?
“Good luck to Scotty Cam keeping his tradies on site when the surf is up … their utes are parked on our street as far as the eye can see. They’re all out catching waves,” quips one Airbnb owner whose family have treated the island as a sleepy hollow for decades.
The owner points out that the only way on and off the island is via the single-lane San Remo bridge, and the island has a permanent population of 14,000.
When The Block arrives traffic is going to be a major sticking point for locals.
“It’s hard to get on and off the island when there are events on … it’s a bottleneck through San Remo getting onto the island, basically one lane, all the way to Cowes,” he said.
They say they would welcome The Block for all the associated business and employment opportunities – even a pop-up McDonald’s, which is the show’s favourite sponsor – but their best wishes come with a few conditions.
Mind the wildlife
“As long as they take care of the local fauna [when driving] … we have Cape Barren geese and the Indigenous swamp wallabies, it’s a really sensitive, fragile eco-environment. And if they do something about the roads,” his wife said.
However, according to Marc Pallisco, property reporter and publisher of realestatesource.com.au, the property “is unlikely to yield any wealthy seachangers seeking a multi-million-dollar home”.
“The location is B grade within the island, agents say, a kilometre from the beach and more than twice that to the town centre.”
‘Breathtaking from the moment you arrive’
Bass Coast Shire Mayor Michael Whelan confirmed to The Age (owned by Nine) on October 3 they were in talks with the show.
“Bass Coast Shire Council is excited that Channel Nine wants to film the 20th anniversary season of The Block on Phillip Island,” Whelan said.
“Council has had positive conversations with representatives from the show, and we look forward to facilitating council approvals.”
The property, which has “glimpses” of the water and is 2.4 kilometres to the main street of Cowes and 950 metres to the nearest beach, was advertised with an asking price of $9.58 million in July.
According to the listing on Eview Group, agent Leanne Poulton says Island Cove Villas was set up as a resort 14 years ago with nine freestanding sandstone-look homes including a two-storey, five-bedroom centrepiece, a resort pool, tennis court, gazebos, barbecue areas and huge solar system.
It was bought for $2 million in 2017, can accommodate up to 56 people, and now the owners of the past six years can fulfil their wishes of retiring and travelling in style.
Poulton was contacted for comment by TND.
Phillip Island real estate agent Yvette Tancheff says choosing the island was a “wonderful choice”, and that locals are used to a sudden influx of visitors.
Long-term exposure may attract more buyers and investors.
Hundreds of locals weighed in on the news on social media, with many already reaching out to partner up and audition, while others were hoping the producers would direct contestants to the local wares and furnishings for the interior decorating.
“Nearly 10 million for a ‘B-grade’ location … that’s a bit harsh,” said one contributor on the island’s community Facebook noticeboard.
“Does this mean that McDonald’s will be coming to the Island?”
“Omg. I love the fact they are coming. They might be able to help out local charities/not for profit groups like the Phillip Island Senior Citizens Club,” wrote another.
The pivot to Phillip Island came when plans for the reno show in Daylesford unravelled after objections by locals were taken to VCAT.
This included, among other procedural contentions, “overdevelopment, the removal of historic trees and its impact on a natural waterway through the site”, reported The Age.
The same brick walls are unlikely to surface as the Phillip Island resort comes with infrastructure and amenity already in place.
It is zoned residential, and as Poulton pointed out: ” … astute purchasers can explore the potential to develop further, subdivide (STCA), look at timeshare options [as an] exclusive 55 [years] plus resort or just land bank for the future”.
But the long-term Airbnb family are hopeful for good times ahead.
“You’ve got to have faith, don’t you? It’s not the nicest part of town, but they could make it something special,” she said.
“Any other beachside locale is always challenged over winter with businesses closing down, so it is a good thing.”
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