Big Pineapple sold to mystery buyer as visitors and staff turned away
- From: The Courier-Mail
- October 14, 2010
VISITORS to one of Queensland's "big" tourism venues were turned away after the heritage-listed Big Pineapple on the Sunshine Coast was sold by receivers.
It wasn't until the steady stream of families and the odd employee arrived at the Woombye theme park's entrance that security guards told them the historic icon – which opened in 1971 – had shut its doors "indefinitely".
Amber Swaine and Manea Kaye, both from Coolum, were among those turned away who said they would have liked more notice.
"I'm really disappointed because the kids were looking forward to feeding the animals," Ms Kaye said.
"I just wish I'd seen it advertised somewhere that it would be closed."
Ms Swaine, who had taken her daughter to the theme park five times, was shocked after purchasing an annual-season pass less than three months ago.
A casual employee who arrived for her shift yesterday morning was also refused entry.
"Nobody knew (it had been sold), not even managers," she said.
"It was a shock when we all got here. It was meant to be a normal work day."
Receivers and managers PPB took control of property from Graham Hayes' family in 2009 but the Australian Taxation Office had been pushing for the property to be wound up since 2003, when it was revealed it owed the ATO $533,700.
A PPB spokesman said the property had been sold to a prominent local family for an undisclosed amount and that the new owners planned to renovate before reopening as a commercial operation.
Marketing agent Mark Creevey from Ray White Special Projects said the sale, which excluded the current business operation, had attracted interest from local and international tourism operators, land developers and property investors.
Sources say a wealthy and well-known Sunshine Coast family is the buyer of the land – last year valued at $20 million – and its heritage-listed 16m-tall fibreglass pineapple.
Among those who have expressed strong interest in the property is the Bowden family – known for their $25 million rare car collection and car-care product business.
However, Dan Bowden yesterday played down speculation his family were involved in purchasing the 170-hectare property, which includes wildlife, a train and fruit plantations.
The property also boasts two factories, nine houses, office and retail space, function rooms, a restaurant and parking for more than 700 cars.
Most staff were believed to be casual employees and a number will continue working to care for the koalas and reptiles until alternative arrangements are made for the animals.
Security guards said they would guard the site around the clock until further notice.