All the news on Great Keppel Island from around Australia
Greens want Great Keppel Island resort plans scrapped
Thu Jan 8, 2009
Greens candidate for the seat of Keppel in Queensland, Paul Bambrick, says the plans for a Great Keppel Island resort are not worth reviewing.
Rockhampton Regional Development Limited says a State Government decision to conserve Lot 21 on the island was flawed because the public were not shown the developer's plans.
Tower Holdings had planned to use the land as part of a
$2.6 billion resort redevelopment.
Mr Bambrick says Tower Holdings' plans would destroy the island.
"It really doesn't look like Great Keppel Island anymore.
"People like it the way it is. It is a beautiful place," he said.
"People go there, people use it as it is. We have full access to it now.
"If it becomes a mega resort it's just for the mega rich. Local people I don't think would really embrace it."
The Sunday Mail, Nov 9, 2008
By: Daryl Passmore
Welcome to Great Keppel Island, where a battle over its future has led to a call for an inquiry into the political connections of a multimillionaire developer. Daryl Passmore reports
"We want it to stay as it is, a pristine and natural treasure for all of Queensland and Australia to enjoy"
- Woppaburra Land Trust executive committee
WHEN 170ha of land on Great Keppel Island -- the coral-fringed speck off central Queensland's Capricorn Coast -- was officially returned to its traditional owners in April last year, it was an historic occasion for the Woppaburra people.
But as then deputy premier Anna Bligh and Natural Resources Minister Craig Wallace joined in the traditional dancing at the handover ceremony, the Aboriginal trustees were not the only people celebrating.
Guests included Sydney-based developer Terry Agnew and other executives from his Tower Holdings group.
The multimillionaire businessman has big plans for Great Keppel -- a $1.5 billion development over 15 to 20 years including two hotel resorts, 1000 house and land packages, 500 to 1000 apartments and townhouses, a 500-berth marina and retail village, two golf courses (at least one designed by Greg Norman), and an airport capable of handling jets flying tourists from the capital cities.
For the 15 months leading up to the Aboriginal land transfer, Tower, which was negotiating the purchase of the Great Keppel Island Resort, had been funding the establishment of the Woppaburra Land Trust office and their application under the Aboriginal Lands Act. Support included salaries for two trust executives, Bob Muir and Chrissy Doherty, costs of running the Woppaburra Dreaming office in Rockhampton and $20,000 for a land survey on Great Keppel Island.
Also on the island that momentous day was former deputy premier Terry Mackenroth who, a few months after retiring from politics, had been engaged by Tower as ``a cultural and political consultant'' on the Great Keppel project.
His role was twofold, according to Mr Agnew: Mr Mackenroth advised the developer on how best to work with the Aboriginal group, and ``yes, he had made introductions to government ministers as political consultants do''.
Three weeks after the ancestral lands were returned, Mr Agnew wrote to the 40 Woppaburra trustees inviting them to a ``unique and special meeting'' and proposing a partnership agreement ``to assess the future opportunities that are available by combining both of our land holdings on Great Keppel Island''.
Between them the two groups would control 96 per cent of the island.
Two months later, Tower flew the 40 trustees -- representing 800 descendants of the island's original inhabitants -- to Brisbane, accommodating them at the Sofitel Hotel for a two-day workshop where the development plans were unveiled, along with an offer by Tower to buy a perpetual lease over virtually all the recently returned Woppaburra land in an $11 million deal.
The Tower offer included $6 million for the lease plus $4 million of community facilities including a cultural centre, artists' colony, elders' respite centre and mangrove retreat learning space for indigenous children.
Mr Muir, then the Woppaburra chairman, admits that the trustees were shocked because up until then only a handful of them -- including him and secretary Ms Doherty -- were aware of what Tower had in mind.
The deal was rejected.
Barrister George Villaflora, who advises the trust pro bono, said: ``There was disbelief that Tower thought they would hand over their recently transferred traditional lands to them for the next 99 years.''
Two days after Mr Villaflora notified the developer of the ``final decision'' to turn down the partnership, Tower chief executive Mr Agnew wrote to Mr Muir and Ms Doherty at the trust office, ending their ``commercial relationship''.
Mr Agnew said he was disappointed but respected the decision.
``As a result, we hereby advise you both that Tower Holdings will be closing the Woppaburra Dreaming office in Rockhampton and will terminate ALL financial arrangements with you in seven days' time,'' he wrote.
Mr Villaflora said while the indigenous people were delighted that Tower's involvement had helped them win back their land, they felt they had been used by the company for its own ends.
The lawyer is now calling for a parliamentary inquiry to investigate who in government knew what and when in relation to Tower's plans, and how it may have impacted on the process of returning the ancestral land.
If it was ``a sham'' to enable Tower to snatch it, it would be a betrayal of the Woppaburra people by the Government, Mr Villaflora said.
He said an inquiry was needed to examine the trend of senior politicians taking up positions in the corporate world as executives or consultants after leaving office.
The Queensland Integrity Commissioner, among others, has raised concerns over the practice, saying it demands immediate attention.
Premier Bligh told The Sunday Mail she and then premier Peter Beattie had met Tower Holdings executives to discuss their project in December 2006.
``Mr Mackenroth sought the first meeting, but did not attend. He did, however, attend a second meeting between Tower Holdings representatives with Department of Infrastructure and Planning officials and myself two months later,'' she said.
``I was briefed for the meeting that the developer had a Native Title issue and that the developer had had earlier discussions on Native Title concerns with the Woppaburra people.
``There has been nothing inappropriate in their contact with government and no one has received any special treatment.''
Natural Resources Minister Mr Wallace said: ``The transfer to the Woppaburra people was a project that was under way for many years.''
Natural Resources knew of some negotiations between the Woppaburra and Tower, but ``my department was not involved and it had no influence on the handover process''.
Mr Wallace said subsequent to the land handover, and as an entirely separate process, NRW was approached by Tower Holdings about a significant development on Great Keppel. Mr Mackenroth said Tower had supported the Aboriginal land claim because ``they wanted to see if the Woppaburra people wanted to deal with them. They could not do that until they got title to the land. There's nothing untoward in that at all''.
He was employed as a consultant by Tower to advise on government processes, but would not say whether he still worked for the company.
``That's my business. I'm out of politics -- I don't have to answer these sort of questions,'' Mr Mackenroth said.
Mr Villaflora complained to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, but they decided not to take any action.
Their response said government decided to start formal consultations on transferring the Aboriginal land in 2005 -- before Tower bought the island's resort.
But Tower clearly claimed credit for expediting the process in its partnership proposal to the Land Trust: ``Without Tower Holdings' involvement, the Woppaburra land transfer is very unlikely to have occurred for many years.'' Mr Agnew said they had not outlined their development plans to government until after their offer was rejected by the Woppaburra people.
He denied there was anything cynical about Tower's support for the Woppaburra Trust, saying it was done as ``a good neighbour'': ``They decided not to accept our offer. That's fine with me.''
Mr Muir said there were no conditions attached when Tower had approached him to offer help in getting the land returned.
Mr Muir and Ms Doherty resigned their positions with the trust earlier this year and both took up jobs with Tower as cultural heritage advisers.
Ms Doherty said: ``Without the support from Tower Holdings, the Woppaburra would of (sic) not had their land granted.
``Tower Holdings provided the Dreaming office as a central operational point for the Woppaburra, through his philanthropy commitment and support for indigenous people as a disadvantaged group.''
Mr Agnew had also paid for an extra 100 descendants to attend the handover ceremony. Given that the State Government provided only $250 to Aboriginal trusts to manage returned land, indigenous groups ``are forced to seek the generosity and kindness of private partners, philanthropists to build partnerships'', Ms Doherty said.
Tower is pushing ahead with its plan for the island. Mr Agnew said the Aboriginal land was not critical to it, but access to 875ha of state-owned land was.
The block -- known as Lot 21 -- covers about 60 per cent of the island. The planned airstrip cuts right through the middle of it.
The land is covered by a ``recreational'' lease allowing things like bushwalking, which was picked up by Tower as part of its purchase of the Great Keppel Island Resort. The lease expires in 2010, and the company has applied for it to be renewed and changed to allow development.
Tower has applied to the state's Co-ordinator-General for the proposed $1.5 billion development to be declared a project of state significance.
But a decision has been put on hold, pending public submissions on the best future use of the lease land.
More than 230 submissions had been received by the deadline on October 24. It is understood many submissions call for the land to be made a national park or conservation zone.
Great Keppel Island environmental group secretary Lyndie Malan said that as part of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park , there was an obligation to protect the island.
Her husband Carl Svendsen, the only remaining born-and-bred islander among 14 permanent residents, said: ``We don't want it to become another Hamilton Island .''
The Woppaburra Land Trust has strongly objected to Tower developing the state land, saying it should be a conservation park.
``We want it to stay as it is, a pristine and natural treasure for all of Queensland and Australia to enjoy,'' says the Trust executive committee in a letter to the Government.
But Ms Doherty said her family group, which comprised about a quarter of the trustees, supported the development.
Conservation values had to be weighed against humanitarian factors when considering development plans.
``I would personally (prefer to) see 2000 jobless people have the opportunity to gain employment,'' Ms Doherty said.
And Tower continues to court the Woppaburra people, offering as recently as last month to build a cultural centre on Woppaburra land.
``In essence, the current proposal to help the Woppaburra people build a cultural centre is another sign of goodwill on behalf of Terry,'' Tower's development manager Anthony Aiossa wrote to Mr Villaflora.
``Any support that the Woppaburra Land Trust could provide to us during our approval process would be much appreciated.''
Local federal MP Kirsten Livermore has suggested the land be put into the care of traditional owners as an environmental reserve.
She welcomes refurbishment of the existing resort, which Tower closed in February with the loss of 110 jobs, but says the scale of the proposed development would ``bring many thousands of people on to this largely pristine and fragile island and would, in my view, destroy the island as we know it today''.
But Mr Agnew says the project would be a model of ecologically-sustainable development, aiming to be the first tourism development in Australia to achieve a six-star green rating.
Great Keppel, with its ``beautiful white sandy beaches and the clearest bluest water'', was perfectly located to attract visitors from Brisbane and other cities and boost the state's flagging tourism industry.
``I've been coming to Queensland for 30-odd years and I think it's absolutely ripe and ready for this,'' Mr Agnew said.
Federal Member for Capricornia Kirsten Livermore's speech about Great Keppel Island in Federal Parliament on October 15, 2008 from hansard
Capricornia Electorate: Great Keppel Island
Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (7.31 pm)—I wish to bring to the attention of this House a matter of grave concern to many of my constituents in Central Queensland.
In recent weeks my office has received representations from a large number of individuals and groups about the proposal by Tower Holdings to redevelop Great Keppel Island, which is situated some 15 kilometres off the Central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon.
It is my understanding that Tower Holdings are
proposing a major redevelopment of the island. I believe they wish to develop three major resort hotels, two large golf courses, a new international airport and a large marina, together with an extensive residential development.
Tower Holdings have bought out the existing resorts
on the island and closed them down.
It is my understanding that they are now asking the state government to change the area known as lot 21 from a recreational lease to a development lease.
The area known as lot 21 is 875 hectares, which is 60 per cent of the total land area of the island.
I would submit that the area known as lot 21 deserves protection. I feel a responsibility to try to conserve the island’s fringing coral reefs, the rocky littoral zones, the sandy beaches, the mangrove wetlands, the eucalyptus forests, the coastal scrub and the parabolic dune system.
I must also mention the highly significant archaeological sites, which are an enduring link between the land and its traditional owners, the Wappaburra people.
The scale of the proposed development by Tower
Holdings would bring many thousands of people onto this largely pristine and fragile island and would, in my view, destroy the island as we know it today. Tower Holdings proposal is such that it must impact on the environment and one has to assume that the proposed marina will trigger the Commonwealth’s EPBC Act.
After all, Great Keppel Island is in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the area around the Keppel islands has already been the site of some of the most
severe coral bleaching events seen on the reef.
And last week’s water quality report released by the Queensland government showed that the reef
remains under serious threat from excess nutrient and sediment run-off.
It is hard to see how the Tower proposal could avoid placing even more stress on this already fragile marineenvironment.
Since acquiring the existing resort on the island,
Tower Holdings have closed the resort, putting the
110 people employed there out of work and leaving local businesses on the island and the mainland that depend on tourist traffic to fend for themselves.
Not surprisingly many of these small businesses have been forced to close.
Businesses in Rockhampton have also been
negatively affected by the closure of the island resort.
A conservative estimate of the impact on our regional
economy as a result of the closure of the resort has
been calculated at upwards of $35 million.
One could hardly call Tower Holdings a good corporate citizen of Central Queensland.
Looking ahead, I am concerned for the impact on
traffic through Rockhampton airport if the Tower proposal for an international airport on the island goes ahead.
In 1998, one of my first commitments to the
people of Central Queensland was to have Rockhampton airport’s runway lengthened to take aircraft up to 747’s.
This has been done and the airport at Rockhampton
continues to prosper.
However, I am concerned when I look at the effect the development of the international airstrip on Hamilton Island had on the airport at Proserpine and to what extent the Hamilton Island development has contributed to the continuing financial problems for Proserpine airport.
Rockhampton was and should remain the gateway to Great Keppel Island.
While I would welcome an appropriate redevelopment of the now closed resort on Great Keppel Island and the benefits this would bring to our community in Central Queensland, I do not believe it is possible to place some thousands of people on the environmentally sensitive and very beautiful Great Keppel Island without destroying the island and all it has to offer.
My constituents need to know that I hear their concerns and I will not support the Tower Holdings proposed redevelopment of Great Keppel Island in its current form.
May 22, 2008
The closure of the Great Keppel Island resort last month has caused worry amongst businesses on the island and tourism providers in the area.
Mayor of the Rockhampton Regional Council believes the currently closure will be a small price to pay for what the resort will bring to the region when it re-opens in the future.
Councillor Carter recently met with the company involved with the re-development of the resort and predicts the future will be bright.
"I had a very positive meeting with Terry Agnew and his representatives from Tower Holdings in terms of the development and their plans for development at Great Keppel Island. They showed me their long term plans. They advised me in terms of wanting it to be one of the most environmentally acceptable developments on the Great Barrier Reef. They are planning to invest an enormous amount of funds to make it that way and I'm looking forward to council being able to receive their application in due course. "
Tower's Holdings are yet to talk to the local media though on their exact plans or how long they believe it will take for the resort to re-open.
According to Councillor Carter discussions are still being made with the State Government.
"They have yet to finalise some discussions with the state government in terms of the status of their project and once they have completed that, I've extended an invitation to Towers Holdings to present to the planning and development committee of council their plans. Whilst we haven't set an exact timing on that I expect that could be in the next month or so where they may be in a position to present a few more details of their plans to council. I certainly am encouraging them to be talking very openly and publicly about their plans when they are able to do that."
The continuing worry for the Island is for the business' that operate outside of the resort. The Rockhampton Regional Council is still yet to discuss exactly how they will help keep the businesses viable.
"There are the commercial business arrangements between Tower Holdings and some of the businesses and that is a matter of them to deal with commercially, it's not a matter for council. Quite separate to that are issues where the Rockhampton Regional Council will be looking at ways and means of addressing the issues of some of the residents on the island and some of the businesses there. Those discussions and negotiations are currently going on as we speak."
Councillor Carter hopes that as a region the Capricorn Coast will recognise that the companies intentions are forward thinking and it's all a matter of time.
"It's an unfortunate situation that arises when you have a development of this magnitude considered, but I do know Tower Holdings are trying to do everything as best they can in terms of their future development and the reality is they're talking about a very sizable development. They did indicate to me how it's difficult to operate the resort under their previous arrangements in the state the resort was in. They are very keen to establish a world class resort which will take some time to construct and I think we need to respect and recognise their intentions in that regard."Courtesy of abc.net.au
May 7, 2008
A Sydney-based development company says a new resort it is planning to build on Great Keppel Island will be the greenest on the Great Barrier Reef.
Tower Holdings bought a large part of the island in 2006 but was criticised earlier this year for closing the loss-making resort and other facilities on the island, after announcing its intention to rebuild.
Tower Holdings' chief executive Terry Agnew says he will brief the Rockhampton Regional Council and local business about the plans in a meeting next month.
Mayor Brad Carter will also meet the company on Friday to discuss the closure of facilities.
Mr Agnew says the new resort will bring tremendous tourism and economic benefits to the Capricorn Coast and the plans will be submitted to both the Queensland Government and Rockhampton council for review.
Courtesy of ABC news.
Great Keppel Island offers a private paradise
Monday, April 07, 2008
With the main resort on Great Keppel Island closed, Great Keppel Island is now a near-private island getaway, according to Tourism Queensland.
The number of tourists to the island has dropped because of public perception that the entire island is closed. However, a range of accommodation is still available on the island at affordable prices, such as the Great Keppel Island Holiday Village, private beach houses, and Svendsens permanent beach tent bungalows.
Tourism Queesnland said this meant the island was now ideal for a private holiday on the 1400 hectare island renowned for its pristine beaches.
Gerry Christie, owner of Island Pizza, the island’s only pizza restaurant, said: "There's 10 or so private houses being rented here (out of 18 on the island) and some bookings did drop off initially but that's because of the misconception the island is closed.”
Cruise boat companies such as Freedom Fast Cats, Sail Capricornia, Keppel Bay Escapes and Funtastic are still operating transfers and cruises from the Rosslyn Bay Marina to Great Keppel.
By Rhett Watson March 25, 2008
EVERYONE knows that with all good parties, a hangover must surely follow.
For businesses left on Great Keppel Island, once famous as the party island off the central Queensland coast, this hangover is the sort that needs more than a greasy bacon-and-egg roll.
The decision by media-shy Sydney developer Terry Agnew to mothball his 181-room resort until he can build a five-star luxury complex in its place is a heavy blow to the businesses that rode off the back of its marketing.
With its rooms now boarded up, the pools filled with sand and the sprawling resort abandoned as of March 12, the island's five businesses, including a dive shop, licensed pizza restaurant, clothing outlet and shell shop, face an uncertain future.
From a community point of view alone, the loss of the 120-odd resort staff cut the island's permanent population by about 90 per cent with only 10 or 12 residents left.
With resort crowds gone, it's like a private paradise
Aside from the cut in accommodation - there are now only 48 beds at a low-budget holiday village and another 70 beds in privately rented holiday homes - the island also is fighting the perception the whole of Great Keppel has closed.
Yet, the irony of the resort closure is that in many respects it creates an amazing opportunity for tourists seeking their own private island.
With Virgin Blue offering specials on flights from Adelaide to Rockhampton - the nearest airport to Yeppoon, the gateway to the islands Great Keppel now offers the possibility of a Robinson Crusoe-style getaway.
There will be, at most, 118 tourists staying on a 1400ha island renowned for 17 pristine beaches, crystal blue water and bushwalking.
Gerry Christie, who with his wife, Karen, has run Island Pizza for 15 years, is upbeat about the resort closure, seeing it as an opportunity to draw in a new style of guest.
"There's 10 or so private houses being rented here (out of 18 on the island) and some bookings did drop off initially but that's because of the misconception the island is closed," he said.
"We've also had people booking in because the resort is closed. People come here because of the beauty of the island.
"You can have a pretty exclusive holiday here now but it's just a matter of making sure people get the relevant information as to what you can and can't get here.
"It's still not a hassle to get here on the cruise boats because we're so close to the mainland." Great Keppel Resort reached almost iconic status after its successful Get Wrecked advertising campaigns of the 1980s.
But the resort has been more than a little tired for many years. In real estate parlance, it was more detonate than renovate.
Mr Agnew bought the resort in January last year for a reputed $20 million. He then bought the islands second largest resort, Keppel Haven, in July, reportedly for $12 million.
While the resort issued releases about a possible start date of early 2009, no plans have been lodged with the council and some on the island expect it could be three or four years before the main resort, in whatever capacity, is re-opened.
May 11, 2008
BELOW: End of an era ... time's up for Great Keppel Island's old resort.
Picture: Spectator News Magazine
Georgia Waters | May 11, 2008
THE transformation of Great Keppel Island Resort into the "greenest" upmarket accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef may finally go ahead after years of speculation.
Sydney developer Tower Holdings confirmed this week it will meet Queensland Co-ordinator-General Colin Jensen before it unveils comprehensive plans next month.
The February 25 closure of the resort, which employed about 110 staff, cut the island's population by an estimated 80 per cent.
Since Tower Holdings bought land on the 1454-hectare island in 2006, speculation about the company's plans has persisted.
The island, 15 kilometres off the central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon, is home to the resort, backpacker accommodation Keppel Haven, 17 white-sand beaches, cafes and private homes, some of which are rented to tourists.
Tower Holdings' purchase in cluded the resort, an airstrip and some beaches.
The company had originally moved to buy Keppel Haven also but last month withdrew from the purchase.
Tower Holdings CEO Terry Agnew said the resort, which opened in 1967, had become unprofitable.
Plans for a new resort would be "state of the art", eco-friendly and star-rated, he said.
The company planned to meet local businesses and Rockhampton Regional Council next month to give a detailed briefing.
John and Suzy Watson, who own a house on the island, have visited Great Keppel since 1976. The former owners of the Capricorn Coast Mirror newspaper now run a local magazine, Spectator News.
Mr Watson said some island businesses, including a souvenir shop, shell shop and cafe, and pizza cafe, were still open but the sight of the now-empty resort was "quite dismal". Nevertheless, island locals were enjoying their newfound peace.
Mr Watson rejected suggestions local businesses were upset about losing customers because of the resort's closure.
He said they had known the closure had been inevitable. "None of the people we know think [the closure] is a problem," he said.
In an attempt to attract visitors to the island, one local man had created the Great Keppel Island community website, which listed information on businesses that had stayed open, Mr Watson said. Some businesses had simply adapted to the change, with a souvenir shop now selling all-day breakfast and coffee to day trippers.
Gerry Christie, who has run the Island Pizza cafe with wife Karen and lived on the island for the past 15 years, said the island still had up to 50 visitors a day.
"It's hard to judge how business is going because May is traditionally the slowest month," he said.
"Most people come to enjoy the island, not the resort."
Mr Christie said the resort had been "getting pretty tired" and he had heard visitors complain.
He said he believed the developers were trying to do the right thing, although he did not agree with how the closure was handled. "I would have liked to see the staff get a bit more warning," he said.
Mr Christie and Mr Watson said they expected Keppel Haven to reopen this year.
Max Crossley, who manages the Rockhampton-based charter service Air Capricorn, said the company still ran 20-minute flights to the island, "although we have nowhere near the numbers we had before the resort closed".
"It's been a big drop in our cash flow," he said.
Source: The Sun-Herald
February 12, 2008
ONE of Queensland's best known island getaways, Great Keppel Island Resort off the central coast, is set to close for a complete rebuild.At 3pm about 100 staff were told they would lose their jobs with the resort to close on February 25.
The island is expected to undergo a complete rebuild with plans to be put to the Livingstone Shire Council in three months.
Work is expected to start early next year.
Workman were onsite yesterday inspecting existing facilities.
But that image has stuck with the island as market tastes have become more sophisticated.
In late 2006, Sydney-based property developer Terry Agnew bought the island and the nearby underwater observatory.
A management agreement with Accor was switched to a new team led by former Tourism Whitsundays Chairman Anthony Cleary.
Mr Agnew also owns the budget resort Keppel Haven and with associated grazing leases controls about 80 percent of the island.
Property industry sources say Agnew has also been looking at ways to maximise returns on largely untouched parts of the island, possibly through an upmarket holiday home or villa development.
Great Keppel Island has 17 sandy beaches.
Queensland's island resorts have been hit hard by sluggish visitor numbers, a wet Christmas school holiday period and ongoing problems with staff shortages.
Great Keppel Island had seen a resurgence in weekend visitation, boosted by the mining boom and low-cost airlined including Jetstar and Tiger.
But with overheads some 30 percent more than on the mainland keeping an island resort profitable is always going to be a challenge.
Courtesy The Courier Mail - couriermail.com.au
Queensland Tourism did a visitor survey in 2003 if you're looking for any research figures.
Interested in seeing the Great Keppel Resort lease?