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  Today Online 1 Dec 06
No new plans for Kusu temple despite resort move
Ansley Ng

The Straits Times 1 Dec 06
All powered up and ready for offers
Infrastructure in place, time is right to attract investors
By Serene Goh

The Straits Times 1 Dec 06
Targetting nature lovers and the well-heeled

Channel NewsAsia 30 Nov 06
Investors give positive feedback to the Southern Islands' development
By May Wong

SINGAPORE: The committee which oversees the development of the Southern Islands have consulted about 20 foreign and local investors over one year. These investors, mainly in the resort business, have given mostly positive feedback.

This is revealed after the Singapore Tourism Board announced recently that it wants to develop a cluster of Southern Islands. The cluster of Southern Islands includes St John's, Kusu and Lazarus. These islands have a combined size of about 140 football fields.

Over the last four years, reclamation took place on the islands, with water pipes and power lines set up. And the islands' two key assets - space and lush greenery - have caught the investors' eyes.

"Some of them said that they thought these islands were very attractive from their experience because they are right at the door step of Singapore. One can view the beautiful skyline of Shenton Way with all the lights, and at the back - the natural greenery that is unspoilt," said Pamelia Lee, Managing Director of Southern Island Development, Sentosa Leisure Group.

Other plus points include clean air and water, and the islands--relative close proximity to Changi Airport.

After reclamation, Pulau Seringat is now connected to Kias and to the larger Lazaras Island. It is one of the Southern Islands slated for development to attract visitors and investments, and it is only about a 30-minute boat ride from the mainland.

It has not been determined whether the islands would be sold as one single land parcel. But once a project has been confirmed and announced, it could take just two years to complete it.

Ms Lee understands that the private sector would want a free hand in planning for the development in the islands.

"When we say we don't want it as dense as a downtown Singapore, we want it to be low-rise. We want it to have lots of greenery, space--that we do know. But whether it's going to be attap roof or coral stone or whatever, we leave to the private sector to give us their input."

Many investors have indicated interest in building up-market and exclusive products on the islands.

But one thing's for sure - Singaporeans would still have access to some parts of the islands even after development.

"Access should be offered to everybody but for different purposes. The beaches and islands are not big enough to take thousands of people and those who take the trouble to come should be given the opportunity to experience the islands, whether in a low-rise resort or in a beautiful nature belt," Ms Lee added.

That way, Singaporeans would still be able to enjoy and study the natural gems on the islands. - CNA/so

Today Online 1 Dec 06
No new plans for Kusu temple despite resort move
Ansley Ng ansley@mediacorp.com.sg

EVEN if a resort for the ultra-rich were to be built on six of Singapore's southern isles, the popular Chinese temple on Kusu island and a marine institute on St John's island are likely to stay--for now.

"There are no new plans for the temple on Kusu," said Mrs Pamelia Lee, Sentosa's managing director of the Southern Islands Management.

"We know that Kusu is very important to people who go there to pray annually." The tiny island also has three kramats, or Malay shrines.

There are also "no new plans" for the Tropical Marine Science Institute on St John's Island--a marine research centre of the National University of Singapore.

Mrs Lee's comments came two days after the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) said it would invite investors to submit ideas early next year to develop the cluster of six islands--which also include Lazarus, Tekukor, Sisters' and Kias and Renget--into a resort for wealthy tourists.

Already, some 20 developers--an equal number of locals and foreigners--have been consulted.

"Some of them said that they thought that these islands were very attractive because they are right on the doorstep of Singapore," Mrs Lee told reporters after a media tour of the islands yesterday. "It has a beautiful skyline of Shenton Way with all the lights and, at the back, the natural greenery that's unspoilt.

"Also, they felt that Singapore's safety was a premium and the water is clean. Changi Airport is so near. Even though our beaches are not as pristine as some of the other resorts', they felt that it was do-able."

The STB last year formed a Southern Islands Committee, made up of government agencies and Sentosa Development Corporation, to engage potential investors, who include local hotel and resort developers with overseas commitments.

Despite the success of Sentosa Cove, a luxury waterfront housing project, the six islands --with a total size of 140 hectares--would probably not be used for homes for the rich.

"None of the investors mentioned residential living," said Mrs Lee.

The Straits Times 1 Dec 06
All powered up and ready for offers
Infrastructure in place, time is right to attract investors
By Serene Goh

After nearly $300million and about 15 years of planning, primping and preening, the Southern Islands are finally ready for suitors. And there are 20 lined up so far, all global resort developers keen to turn the cluster of seven islands just off Sentosa into Singapore's next big mega tourist project.

Officials were coy about revealing names, but industry sources say players could include Singapore-based groups Banyan Tree and Amanresorts.

Over the years, there have been several suggestions on how to develop the islands, from turning them into a centre for water sports, to developing eco-tourism and promoting fishing. Even a retirement village was mooted. But no plans are concrete.

Now the Singapore Tourism Board reckons the time is ripe to attract big investors to develop the cluster, which lies about a 20-minute ferry ride from the Singapore Cruise Centre and 30 minutes from Marina South Pier.

Reclamation and infrastructure works alone cost $60million, and were completed in September on the islands of Pulau Seringat, Kias, St. John's, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters' Islands.

Most recently -- and crucial for private development -- all the islands were linked up with gas, water, electricity and telecommunications lines from Sentosa. This was made possible by a "submarine services link", Singapore's first comprehensive set of underwater utility lines, which lie 17m underwater on the seabed. This lifeline snakes 1.2km from Sentosa Cove to Kias, and is protected with up to 50,000 tonnes of rock. It holds two gas pipelines, two water pipelines, four power cables for telecommunications -- enough to give the islands' community the same facilities as the mainland.

The Straits Times 1 Dec 06
Targetting nature lovers and the well-heeled

Industry experts say there must be a relaxation of rules to make area an exclusive spot.

Not long ago, Kias was a mere shoal, a tiny strip of land in the ocean that disappeared at high tide. Now after six years of reclamation works, the sandbank has literally grown into an island, one of the cluster of seven that make up the Southern Islands.

On it is the electricity generator that will provide power to the entire cluster of islands, a fact that Mr Ho Chai Teck, who worked on the reclamation plans for Kias when it was just a shoal, finds astounding. "This was actually all under water," said the assistant vice-president of reclamation and infrastructure division Surbana, looking at the sandy ground under his feet. "People couldn't come here".

Since then, the islands of Pulau Seringat and Lazarus have also been linked with a sand bank which forms a lagoon that has an unobstructed sea view.

The islands currently attract about 100,000 visitors a year, mainly pilgrims, campers, day-trippers and canoeists.

But once developed into an exclusive destination, Southern Islands Development managing director Pamelia Lee expects two types of tourists: the well-heeled who can afford the luxury lifestyle and those who want to explore the rustic surroundings for its flora and fauna, including 300 species of native wildlife.

However, she remains realistic about prospects.

Comparing the islands to similar waterfront playgrounds in Australia, Phuket and Malaysia, here, there are no spectacular beaches. No whales to watch. In fact, getting there might even prove daunting for the average convenience-seeking Singaporean. "Some investors have told us to our face that this is too complex for their customers." she said.

Those who are interested are attracted for a different reason, she said. They see the islands as being "on the doorstep of a vibrant area that's really taking off -- Sentosa is booming, the HarbourFront is booming".

"So many developers, they said it was unspoiled. Sometimes they go into a site, they hav eto undo before they do it up. This one is fresh, green and it is ready. So a lot of developers find this exciting".

Even so, say industry experts, developing such a niche property will not be easy, even for likely developers in the league of Dubain's Jumeirah or Singapore-based Amanresorts and Banyan Tree.

The well-heeled are notoriously hard to attract and entertain.

For the breed that populates such exclusive millionaires' playgrounds as Monte Carlo and Nice, "there must be relaxation of rules", said Mr Charles Tee, CEO of hospitality solutions group Gustodian. Even if the islands offer top-notch resort facilities and services, he pointed out, the rich and famous still look for "very flexible rules".

For instance, he said: " For the well-heeled, they want to have privacy, even sail in and out on their own". "But here, they will have to contend with authorities, who require boat owners to have piloting licences, or have their boats piloted by qualified boat captains".

Mrs Lee said nothing is firmed up for the islands. "We are exploring what works best," she said. "We're asking developers what they want to see. A lot of it is like matchmaking".

Mr Gordon Lam, who lived on St. John's Island until he was eight, sees the planned development as part of modernisation, but he's reluctant to see the islands' rural past fade. The 50-year old landscape contractor and resident of Bukit Panjang, recalls having to ride a sampan to primary school from St. John's, where his father was stationed as a medical officer. "We had chickens and ducks in the house and I ran around naked on the beach", he recalls.

He also remembers a time when Lazarus Island was still two islets -- Pulau Renget and Pulau Sakijang Pelepah. "If you told the local boatmen, you tell them 'Lazarus Island', the fellow won't even know", he says.

"Now, only school children go there for holiday camping", he says. "I don't know much about commercialism, but if you really want to retain that flavour, you have to go back to bare necessities".

Southern Promise

Fifteen years of planning and building has turned the islands into a vistor's gem.

Submarine Services Link: The 1.2km underwater trench holds utility lines that lie 17m underwater. It links Sentosa Cove to Kias Island, and is protected underneath 50,000 tonnes of rock. It holds two 12-inch gas pipelines, two 12-inch water pipelines, four 22kV power cables and four 96 core fibre optic cables for telecommunication.

Kias Island: Previously a shoal that was barely visible at high tide, Kias is not an island that houses a generator with enough capacity to support all the islands.

The beach linking Pulau Seringat and Lazarus Island now allows visitors to walk fromone to the other. The joining has created a lagoon with an unobstructed sea view.

A linkway now connects Lazarus and St. John's Islad, which vehicles can drive across.

Sisters Islands: Its beaches are currently underpopulated, although they are well maintained. Even on weekends, they get only a few family picknickers.

Uniquely Singapore: city reefs! with photos!
Related articles on Southern Islands developments
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