Keppel candidates share their Great Keppel Island plans
OCTOBER'S State Government election fast approaches and one of the key issues confronting candidates is putting forward a viable strategy to unlock Great Keppel Island's massive tourism and employment potential.
Since Labor's Brittany Lauga was returned to power in Keppel in 2017 on the back of a $25 million pledge to revitalise the island with a mainland connection to power, water and high speed internet, the community has waited anxiously to see the outcomes of the extensive scoping study, the business case for the plan and for construction to commence.
With the final price tag for the project quoted as $62.5 million, the Queensland Government still needs to find another $30.7 million to get rolling on the project - funding they have tried fruitlessly to obtain from the Federal Government.
While the Queensland Government's remains squarely focused on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, they also need find a financial way forward for the GKI project in advance of the election campaign.
Given that 2017 election result was extremely close with the One Nation Party narrowly finishing behind Ms Lauga and just ahead of the LNP, it is worth considering what their candidate's visions were for GKI.
One Nation candidate for Keppel Wade Rothery
Runner up in the seat of Rockhampton to Labor's Barry O'Rourke in the last state election, Mr Rothery made the sea change to Keppel last year and with the backing of One Nation Party leader Pauline Hanson, is determined to wrest Keppel from Ms Lauga's grasp.
Mr Rothery says the re-development of Great Keppel Island was more critical than ever, guaranteeing 1,500 high-priority jobs in the building industry and restoring the Capricorn Coast's tourism trade at a time where hospitality workers had been hit hardest.
"The vast majority of locals have been supportive of the re-development plans on Great Keppel Island for over a decade. Labor has stifled the project on several occasions and many people feel gutted by the countless broken promises by the local Labor MP," Mr Rothery said.
"It gives me enormous confidence knowing the new buyers have a long-held connection to the Island and provided residents of the mainland can still utilise the beaches on day trips, I have every bit of faith that locals will throw their support behind the new owners.
"Labor hasn't followed through with their promise to provide power and water to the island because they completely stuffed up the costings."
Given the financial debt Queensland and the federal government face following the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Rothery said the re-development project would most likely need to go ahead but with alternative plans of powering and providing water to the island.
"Nothing is stopping the re-development proceeding with a mix of solar and diesel power generation and I'm well aware of earlier plans that relied on several freshwater aquifers that could be tapped into, or a desalination plant," he said.
"We must look at the most cost-effective solutions in these troubled financial times to ensure the project gets off the ground.
"There is already a radio link between the Emu Park exchange and Great Keppel Island that provides ADSL, mobile and fixed phone capabilities, however with newer technologies like fixed wireless, I'd work with our federal counterparts to bolster those communication facilities."
He said the project was being held back by the red tape and "the sluggish pace this Labor government operated under".
"We're just lucky these new buyers love the island so much and believe in the region that they've stuck with it. Every other buyer gave up on the roadblocks that were put in their way," he said.
"I'm aware that the new buyers had their finance approved a few weeks before the coronavirus outbreak, but who knows what precautions banks will take from this point forward.
"One Nation would be prepared to repurpose the $25 to $30 million that was originally committed to the island and use that money as a bank guarantee to ensure nothing stands in the way of this project."
LNP candidate for Keppel Adrian de Groot
When Adrian de Groot was officially named as the LNP's candidate for Keppel last week, he cited Great Keppel Island as one of two projects which needed to go ahead to protect the local economy.
Mr de Groot regards Great Keppel Island as one of the most incredible places on Queensland's coast and an asset for Keppel, capable of creating jobs and building a stronger local economy.
"There is huge potential for a world-class development that will attract tourists to the region and create more local jobs," Mr de Groot said.
"It's also important that the development helps preserve the island's best feature - the pristine environment.
"Queensland has consistently had one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation under Labor and projects like the Great Keppel Island development are desperately needed to create more local jobs."
Mr de Groot said it had been five years of delays for this project by the Queensland Government, and he believed they couldn't be trusted to deliver it.
"As the LNP candidate for Keppel, I want to see work started on a development as soon as possible that creates desperately needed local jobs during construction and well into the future through tourism," he said.
"Utility infrastructure is required for any development - whether it's residential, industrial or commercial.
"As with any other major development, the state government in conjunction with its local and federal counterparts has a crucial role to play in ensuring the project gets started."
He said multiple project proponents have fallen over under the present government and they were the "weak link" in making the development a reality.
"There's no indication that any of the $25 million promised at the last election has actually been spent and the long-awaited business case still hasn't even been publicly released," he said.
"Whether it's downsizing Rookwood Weir or breaking promises on Great Keppel Island, Labor can't be trusted to deliver local jobs for Keppel.
"Unlike the current Member for Keppel, I won't change my position after the election. Unlike Labor, an LNP Government won't change the goal posts on job-generating projects from the private sector."
Labor candidate for Keppel Brittany Lauga
Aiming to be returned to the seat of Keppel for a third time, incumbent member Brittany Lauga has pushed hard over the years to see the plan for Great Keppel Island realised.
She responded to the comments made by her challengers asserting that her government was getting on with the job.
"The LNP and One Nation needs to stop talking our beautiful Great Keppel Island down and get on board with the Palaszczuk Government's power and water infrastructure project," Ms Lauga said.
"Only last week Altum became the first Great Keppel Island investor in over 5 years to submit a Financial and Managerial Capability Assessment to the Queensland Government.
"This is absolutely a step in the right direction, and it couldn't have come at a better time as our community experiences the challenges of COVID-19."
Ms Lauga said she was committed to delivering power and water infrastructure to Great Keppel Island because it would benefit the entire island, including the existing tourist operators and residents.
"The Federal Government should partner with us to deliver infrastructure that will provide the capacity for a tourist resort on the Island. I called on the Federal Government to stump up funding to contribute to this important infrastructure project, but my calls have so far fallen on deaf ears," she said.
"The business case for the power and water infrastructure was released last month and shows that the project would generate $1.3 billion in private sector investment in the local tourism industry.
"At the last election the LNP and One Nation had no plan for Great Keppel and it's clear that they still don't."