Tourism industry welcomes news of Gina Rinehart’s move to develop Great Keppel Island

Tourism bodies in central Queensland have welcomed news that Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart has entered into an agreement to potentially redevelop the resort on Great Keppel Island. 

Key points:In a statement at the weekend, Hancock Prospecting said plans had begun to acquire the development project from Tower HoldingsIt says its plans include a beach club, sandy bars, shopping, and a marinaThe Great Keppel Island Progress Association say the developer is the "best prospect" the island could hope for

The once iconic resort off the central coast of Queensland closed down in 2008 and has since had several false starts from companies trying to bring it back to life. 

In a statement released at the weekend, Ms Rinehart's company Hancock Prospecting said plans had begun to acquire the development project from its current lease holder, Sydney-based developer Tower Holdings. 

"We hope to be able to make it better than it has ever been, with a world-class, year-round beach club, sandy bars, shopping, and more experiences circling around a marina modelled after successful marinas like Puerto Banus," the statement read. 

"We envision a year-round swimmable beach club and an underwater bar being able to bring the benefits of overseas tourism to Australia." 

The deal is still in its very early stages and subject to local and state government approvals. 

An old and abandoned building with smashed glass windows on a beach.
The old resort on Great Keppel Island was demolished in August 2018 after 10 years of sitting dormant.(ABC Capricornia: Megan Hendry)

Tourism sector excited

Ross O'Reilly, the Great Keppel Island Progress Association president, said it was good news, though finer details of the proposal were yet to be known. 

"I think there's been that many starts, and nothing has happened, that everybody is kind of sitting back saying 'we'll believe it when we see it'," Mr O'Reilly said. 

"[But] if we were hoping for the best prospect in the country, I think we've found that in Gina.

"It is a very big project and getting the finance in this day and age to complete the project is huge, and that won't be a problem for her." 

The region's peak tourism and development body Capricorn Enterprise echoed those sentiments.

Chief executive Mary Carroll said after months of speculation it was wonderful to hear the news confirmed.

Ms Carroll said while the deal was in an early conditional contract process stage she had "absolutely no doubt" that Hancock Prospecting could "deliver a truly world class tourism development".

A small boat sits on the sand.
Ms Rinehart's company Hancock Prospecting says plans for the island include a beach club, bars, an underwater bar, shopping and a marina.(ABC Capricornia: Blythe Moore)

Environmental protections needed

State member for Keppel, Brittany Lauga, agreed the investment seemed like it had the greatest chance of eventuating compared to previous attempts over the past decade.

"I really want to see whoever does it make sure they protect the environment, that they use local contractors, that they use local workers, and that they don't lock local people out of the island," Ms Lauga said. 

She reiterated that state government would look at the project management experience and the financial capability of any applicant who wanted to have the lease transferred to them. 

"They have to [demonstrate] what they're going to do with the island, what their plans are, and their ability to deliver that," Ms Lauga said.

Ms Lauga said she was aware that Ms Rinehart had visited the island but had not met with her and was concerned about potential environmental impacts to the island. 

"[But] I'm also very confident in the state, federal, and local government approval processes" Ms Lauga said. 

"As long as they stick with the approvals they minimise that environmental impact, and as long as our region gets a fair share out of it … but also that Hancock works with the local Woppaburra people and the island operators as well, then I think we're in with a good shot."

The Department of Resources said it had not yet received an application to transfer the lease. 

In comes after the Minister for Resources rejected developer Altum Property Group's attempt to acquire the lease in June. 

Tower Holdings declined to comment until a later date when the deal is confirmed. 

'It feels insulting'

Woppaburra elder Bob Muir said it was a shock to hear of the proposal through the media.

"When it hits the media first, before they talk to the Woppaburra people, it really does cause division," he said.

"We have to get together to have a meeting, but that hasn't happened and I'm not too sure when that will happen.

"We're at the process of looking at native title in December, and then the governance structure will change as far as the PBC [Prescribed Body Corporate is concerned] — from there maybe next year we might be prepared to sit down and talk to people like Gina Rinehart.

"But at the moment we're in that period that no matter what's going on, we're not prepared [to start discussions] just yet.

"Once again, it feels insulting that the media and the world knows before we're told anything." 

Posted 1 Nov 20211 Nov 2021Mon 1 Nov 2021 at 12:48am, updated 1 Nov 20211 Nov 2021Mon 1 Nov 2021 at 3:21amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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