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Sunday, 14 January 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Seaside town primed for a makeover

REGARDED by many as Negri Sembilan’s crown jewel, Port Dickson is set to see a massive change in its skyline once projects planned for the redevelopment of the resort town starts taking shape in the next few years.

The port town was once known as Tanjung. It then took the name of a Federated Malay States British officer Sir John Frederick Dickson in 1889. It is set for rejuvenation once the ambitious Malaysian Vision Valley (MVV) project is officially launched soon.

A producer of tin and charcoal decades ago, Port Dickson’s position as the state’s top tourism ringgit earner will also be strengthened once the authorities embark on a project to reclaim 3,200ha of sea area off Lukut.

The move, which has been endorsed by the federal authorities is aimed at allowing more people to live in the resort town as well as to spur tourism.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the authorities would reclaim a muddy stretch off Lukut for mixed development.

“We want to build more homes in Port Dickson and make the town more vibrant.

“Our aim is to have more people living here instead of coming only during the weekends or public holidays,” he said, adding that this was also a preamble to get city status for Port Dickson.

Mohamad also made it clear that no mangrove areas would be cleared in the reclamation exercise. The stretch to be reclaimed was a muddy area and not suitable for any activity.

“We have complied with all the regulations to ensure the environment is not in any way affected,” he said.

Port Dickson has some of the finest beaches south of Kuala Lumpur such as Pantai Saujana, Pantai Cahaya Negeri, Pantai Purnama, Pantai Tanjung Biru and Pantai Teluk Kemang which attracts tourists by the droves.

Despite having an impressive list of resorts, hotels and homestays, getting a room during weekends or long holidays can be a hassle.

“We have no choice but to reclaim the area as we cannot develop the existing town which was not properly planned,” he said.

Mohamad said the resort town would also need more dwellings when the abandoned Seremban-Port Dickson rail route - which is the second oldest in the country – is rehabilitated.

The Federal Government has agreed to rebuild the 39km line under a private-public partnership arrangement following a request from Mohamad’s administration.

The line has been abandoned since 2008 after a freight train derailed. Passenger services were stopped in the late 1970s.

The line was built in 1891 to facilitate the transportation of coal. This became even more important after two oil companies opened their refineries there.

Mohamad said once the construction of the rail stretch was completed, it will also spur growth in areas along the route such as Mambau, Kuala Sawah and PD Utama.

Railway line upgrade

Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd also has plans to turn Port Dickson into a possible cargo hub to serve Malaysia’s southern regions.

Based on estimates, thousands of tonnes of cargo and up to 100,000 people can be ferried each day on the line once it becomes fully operational. The railway also plans to upgrade the line from a single track to a double system, which will give it both a high freight and passenger potential.

And to better manage its famous beaches and oversee the redevelopment of Port Dickson, Mohamad said the MVV secretariat to be set up in Seremban, will be tasked with this.

“Since PD is located within the MVV, we thought that it was only proper that the planning and development of the resort town is supervised by the MVV secretariat,” said Mohamad who will chair the secretariat.

Upcoming hotel chain

A reputable Indonesian chain is set to add to the existing range of five-star hotels in Port Dickon.

The company will operate a 700-room hotel, which will house the state’s largest convention centre and will be home to a 30,000sq metre water park. Opening is scheduled in mid-2019.

Declared as the country’s Army Town by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in 2009, PD can also expect to see an increase in population once the KLIA-Seremban-Port Dickson highway is completed.

The project, expected to be carried out under the 11th Malaysia Plan, will cut travel time between both points and open up new residential areas and townships.

The district is also set to be a hub for small and medium enterprises as Mohamad’s administration has in principle agreed to convert the land status of a 480ha area earmarked for modern pig farming in nearby Bukit Pelanduk almost two decades ago.

The authorities then had decided to relocate all the pig farmers in one area after the outbreak of the Nipah virus in 1999. The tragedy took the lives of 108 people.

Some 200 farmers had each acquired between 0.8ha and 2.4ha costing between RM340,000 and more than RM1mil then but the project ran into problems due to a combination of factors.

Mohamad’s administration decided to do away with this due to rapid development in the area and its proximity to the KLIA, KLIA2 and new residential and commercial areas.

Mohamad said his administration also plans to solve the perennial problem of flash floods during high tides in Port Dickson.

The Public Works Department has been asked to work on a plan for this to ensure the people were no longer affected by the floods.

Several parts of Port Dickson are usually inundated with flood waters as the rain water could not be diverted out to sea during high tide.

“At present, there is nothing much we can do when this happens. I have asked the PWD to carry out a detailed study to see how we could prevent this,” he said.

Apart from the town centre, other areas often hit include Kampung Bagan Pinang, Kampung SiRusa Dalam, Port Dickson town, Jalan Utama Sunggala Gate, Batu 8 Teluk Kemang and Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Port Dickson.

“We have been grappling with this for some time now and we need a permanent solution so that the tourism sector will not be affected,” he said.

Duty-free area

Mohamad also had an ambitious plan to have the country’s first mainland-to-island cable car system built in Port Dickson.

However, this had to be shelved as the project was too costly.

However, plans to turn an area in Port Dickson into a duty-free zone and a proposal to turn the Port Dickson-Telok Kemang-Tanjung Tuan-Linggi area into an international coastal sport and tourism destination are still in the pipeline.