Clive Palmer has disbanded his Palmer United Party.
Clive Palmer has disbanded his Palmer United Party. DAN PELED / AAP

After 800 jobs vanished, could Clive Palmer help save NQ?

A REOPENING or sale of the shuttered Yabulu nickel refinery has been flagged as one of several big developments likely to help spur the economy of Townsville in 2018.

But whether the plant can be reopened remains to be seen with owner Clive Palmer last year saying investment depended on him being "impressed" with the "quality of the local politicians and the community".

It is understood Mr Palmer's companies have engaged with real estate firms to assess land values around the plant and that there are potential buyers in Indonesia and China.

Commercial property agents with Ray White and Colliers International hope the Yabulu issue, among a range of projects on the horizon, can be resolved.

Yabulu was closed in March 2016 when nickel prices tanked and Mr Palmer was in dispute with administrators, throwing 800 people out of work.

Ray White principal Graeme Russell said he hoped to see the refinery reopen, possibly by operating its second process line installed by BHP in 2006 to treat concentrates.

Aerial view of Yabulu Nickel Refinery showing tailing ponds.
Aerial view of Yabulu Nickel Refinery showing tailing ponds.

He said they had advice from Mr Palmer's companies they intended to reopen the plant.

"The plant would be more saleable having it up and running," Mr Russell said.

Colliers associate director Neville Smith wants to see an outcome on Yabulu in 2018.

"I think an outcome on Yabulu would be a great thing, whether that is (the property) changing hands or (the refinery) firing it up," Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said he also wanted to see other major projects proceed to provide the jobs needed to help spur a property recovery.

"It comes down to a commitment from the hierarchy (in leadership) this year to get some of these job-creating projects out of the ground," Mr Smith said.

"There are great things in the pipeline. Once we see dirt being turned, Townsville will be a great place."

Yabulu nickel refinery.
Yabulu nickel refinery.

Mr Smith said those projects included Yabulu, developments proposed for The Strand and the Ross Creek Priority Development Area, Adani's Carmichael coal and rail project, the Boston Energy and Innovation-led battery manufacturing plant proposal and the defence training initiatives between Singapore and Australia.

Mr Smith said the property market had stabilised and developers were active in Townsville.

"I'd like to think we are at the bottom and that, if anything, the property cycle is starting to move in the right direction," Mr Smith said.

Mr Russell said investors were looking to Townsville after capital city prices had topped.

"I think we are in a recovery phase.

"We have some projects happening. I have a positive outlook for 2018," Mr Russell said.

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