Gavin King

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Could this be the sign we've all been waiting for on Aquis?

Sources close to the Aquis project say a message to cane farmers from the developers could signal the start of construction early next year.

Cane farmers working plots of land at Yorkey's Knob on the site of the proposed Aquis Resort have reportedly been told not to plant another crop once the current yield is harvested to make way for the start of the project next year.

TropicNow can also reveal a high-level meeting between the Fung family, Mayor Bob Manning and Queensland Government Ministers including Treasurer Curtis Pitt will take place in Brisbane next week to map out a way forward for the development.

Sources close to the project say the message to cane farmers is the latest sign Aquis is gearing up to break ground in the first half of 2017.

Just over 60 percent of the 340 hectare Aquis site is currently under cane, producing about 13,000 tonnes of sugar cane per year.

Cane season generally runs from June to November each year, which means work could start on the Yorkey's Knob site after the wet season in April or May next year.

Aquis spokesman Ben Ready confirmed to TropicNow that the company hoped to commence "preliminary works" on the site in 2017.

Mr Ready said the company was still working with the Queensland Government to progress the application with a "range of factors" still to be determined.

While the news will likely provide little comfort to most Cairns residents suffering from a kind of "Aquis fatigue" after a three-year rollercoaster ride, the apparent message to cane farmers fits with the project's new timeline and focus on residential development.

In March, Aquis ditched its long-running battle to secure a casino licence and instead announced plans to focus on developing residential property at the Yorkey's Knob site.

The high-level meeting between Aquis, Cairns Regional Council and the state government next week is expected to discuss the way forward for the project's approvals process now that the casino licence is off the table.

Commenting on that Aquis curveball back in March, an Aquis spokesman said:

"Our priority is advancing the real estate approvals for the project and we hope to have these done by the end of the year (2016)."

That change in direction came at the same time that Aquis joined forces with Chinese companies Tandellan Group and CCC International Holding LTD (CCCI).

The Tandellan Group has been building residential towers in Beijing since the early 1990s, while CCCI bought Australian civil construction giant John Holland last year after some concerns about the Chinese Government-owned company's poor reputation with the World Bank.

CCCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC), the world's largest listed company in the international infrastructure and engineering sector and ranked in the top 200 richest companies in the world on Fortune's 500 List with market capitalisation of approximately $AU23.5 billion.

The new Aquis-led consortium bought a prime development site at Surfers Paradise for $40 million in March, with the 10,500 sqm site comprising an entire block bordered by the Gold Coast Highway, Palm Avenue, Cypress Avenue and Surfers Paradise Boulevard.

It comes as the stock exchange listed Aquis Entertainment Limited recently lodged its formal business case with the ACT Government to progress its $307 million overhaul of the Canberra casino.

While Mr Ready stressed Aquis Entertainment LTD was "a completely separate entity to Aquis Yorkey Knob", it is a strong indication that Aquis boss Tony Fung is intent on progressing his Australian development activities.

Aquis Entertainment executive director Jessica Mellor said the business case outlined the company's plans to "transform" the Canberra casino and surrounding area into a world-class entertainment precinct that included upgraded gaming floors, restaurants, bars, retail boutiques and accommodation.

"Aquis has already attracted some of the best talent in the integrated resort industry to lead the Casino Canberra business, and we're looking forward to sharing their knowledge and skills with our new recruits," Ms Mellor said.

"Our recent $14 million investment in refurbishing the existing casino is a strong endorsement of our confidence in the Canberra market and, through this proposal, we look forward to building on this foundation as a significant contributor to the ACT tourism and leisure sector over the long-term."