Garrett wrecks GKI plan
DELIGHT and despair greeted Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s shock decision yesterday to throw proposals for a $1.1 billion super resort on Great Keppel Island into the dustbin.
There was nothing but stunned silence from Tower Holdings, the Sydney-based property developer that had submitted plans for the largest tourism development in Australia’s history.
The company said it would not comment on the decision that has ended its dream of creating a thriving tourism industry on the island, complete with 300 room hotel, 300 apartments and 1700 low-rise villas.
But there was a spontaneous party thrown by environmental campaigners to celebrate what they say is the protection of the island for future generations.
“I couldn’t be happier with the Government’s decision,” said Committed 2 Change spokesman Renton Bishopric said. “We always knew that this proposal was so outrageous, and such an obvious land grab by Tower Holdings, that Garret could only deem it ‘clearly unacceptable’.
“Today’s announcement is a win for us all in the Capricorn region, and in particular for future generations. As a community we can now be sure that our kids will be able to enjoy the natural coastal island treasures of Keppel Bay, and they will find these islands in the same natural state they have always been in.
In contrast Gerry Christie, owner of GKI’s gourmet pizza restaurant, attacked Mr Garrett as very arrogant and said he had cost Central Queensland the chance of a lifetime to revitalise with 1400 jobs and a strong future in tourism.
“This will be the end of GKI. It will be left as a wilderness. If the Fastcats stop running all the businesses will die and if Tower Holdings walks away the vocal minority will get their way.”
Mr Christie said he was disappointed that not one politician from the three tiers of government had spoken up for the proposals despite “95% support from local businesses”.
Mr Garrett’s decision came, ironically, as Tower Holdings was meeting with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to discuss the plans.
The company has invested heavily in a charm offensive that seemed to be having the desired effect. Although there was some hard-line opposition to the revised proposal from environmentalists, the plan had received a warmer reception than the original, thousands registering support on an official website.
Member for Keppel Paul Hoolihan said he was not surprised that Mr Garrett had acted so early in the consultation process.
“We have laws which allow the Government to make these decisions and this will be welcomed by a large number of people who had very grave concerns about the scale of the development.
“I have to say I am quite pleased. It shows that our laws work and these areas of land that really matter to the people of Queensland and Australia are protected by the Government.”
He said he was not against some sensible development on the site of the old resort, but he had made a private submission to the Lot 21 investigation last year in which he had suggested it should be kept pristine.
“I would still like to see a resort built on the old site,” he said.
Queensland Conservation Council welcomed the decision, commenting it was consistent with recommendations made in this week’s House of Representatives coastal report (Managing our coastal zone under climate change).
“That report makes it very clear that we must protect all our remaining coastal habitats,” executive director Tony Hutcheon said.
“Latest scientific assessments are confirming that sea level rises of 1.5 metres this century are more likely and with storm surges, more of the Queensland coast is now vulnerable. The report emphasises the need to build natural buffer zones right along the coastline to protect settlements from the oceans.”
The shock announcement was also praised by Australian Greens’ marine spokesman Rachel Siewert.
Senator Siewert said: “A project of this magnitude would have disastrous effects on the surrounding environment and ecosystems. The planned marina would have required serious dredging work, which could have killed large sections of coral reef,” she said.
Mayor Brad Carter urged Tower not to walk away, saying: “Tower Holdings have an opportunity to resubmit an alternate proposal for the Minister’s consideration, and I would encourage them to do so as I believe there is great potential to develop Great Keppel Island while maintaining and protecting its natural environment.
“There is still the opportunity to redevelop the existing tourist facilities and develop new tourist facilities on the island that are acceptable to both federal and state requirements.”
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The Great Keppel Island saga...
April 9, 2009: Tower's GKI dream is still alive
May 7, 2009: Bligh shows caution over Great Keppel proposal
May 9, 2009: Great Keppel plans revealed
May 22, 2009: Tower sparks Keppel hopes
September 4, 2009: Keppel folk say develop
September 4, 2009: Terry wants to change things on Keppel
September 5, 2009: 'Our GKI - 1800 jobs and $145 million per year'
September 7, 2009: Tower calls for community support
September 21, 2009: GKI reno could be cash boon for council
October 20, 2009: Rally protests GKI plan