LETTER TO EDITOR: Let’s work on visitor packages for locals

THERE has been much assertion, theory and accusations around the issues of a boutique gaming licence and proposed development on Great Keppel Island.

However I find there has been little responsibility.

Who is responsible? We are. All of us. There are 50,000 adults in Rockhampton region, there are 52 weeks in a year. If each adult in Rockhampton region committed to visit GKI for just one day a year that would mean 960 visitors a week. That's 137 visitors a day. Add the 23,000 adults in Livingstone region and the number swells to approximately 1400 visitors a week, approximately 200 a day.

I visited GKI recently; the beauty of the natural environment is mesmeric. Listening to the gasps of delight and comments from tourists, I felt a renewed sense of appreciation to live here.

In contrast, the scar of the abandoned resort is stark and painful to see. It reminded me of the abandoned buildings in Detroit, USA, when Ford factory closed. It has no place on GKI. The fact it has been there, allowed to fall into further decay, for eight years begs the question why it's been allowed to happen.

I believe Rockhampton and Livingstone councils and elected state Members' failure in this matter can only be described as shameful. I find little evidence of any effort to encourage locals to the wellbeing of the island i.e. holding events on the island or negotiating deals for locals to visit the island etc.

Most of us go about our increasingly busy day-to-day life. As financial concerns demand our attention and the number of social issues increases, we can feel beleaguered. Switching off has become a coping mechanism.

Regardless our social, economic and natural environment it is our responsibility. It is the residents of the region who are ultimately responsible for the region.

Many people have not visited GKI in years. I include myself in that number. It cost me $150 to visit for the day. That included ferry fare, glass-bottom boat ride, lunch and a drink. I also bought a couple of souvenirs (bag and cup). I've included petrol to and from Rockhampton in the cost. As an increasing number of people earn an income at or below the poverty line, $150 for a day out is simply unaffordable. Much as they would love to visit the island they can see financially it is out of reach.

We now have a significant number of children under 10 who have never visited GKI. With no relationship or sense of emotional ownership, any possibility of a long-term responsibility or involvement with GKI diminishes. They could reasonably suppose GKI is nothing to do with them.

I think if we consider the possibility of 1400 local visitors a week and negotiated a deal for a day out for locals we would see an increasing number of locals support our island's economy.

I believe an overnight stay is very desirable and a deal for locals would also be welcome.

The alternative - handing our island and our natural environment to overseas investors and gamblers - is a frightening and unreasonable option. None of the visitors I spoke to, whether from interstate or overseas, perceived a casino would be appropriate or beneficial to the island.

None of them came to GKI to gamble. They came to enjoy the unique natural beauty of the reef and the island.

Our island has a natural future and our region has a boundless future. I believe the idea of a deal for locals is worth considering. Let's push it out and see if it floats.

It is our region and it is our island; we must all get on board. The rewards are a natural delight.

Anne Margaret O'connor


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