Options explored for rusting observatory
AUTHORITIES are poised to come down on the owners of the Middle Island underwater observatory like a tonne of bricks.
After demanding more information from owner Tower Holdings and inspecting the observatory first-hand, GBRMPA's patience is running out and they are considering enforcement action.
Much like the shuttered GKI Resort, Tower Holdings has let the underwater observatory fall into disrepair, failing to renew their Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority permit since it lapsed in November 2017.
Frustrated conservationists including Capricorn Conservation Council coordinator Michael McCabe have called for action since its closure in 2008.
Members of the community have expressed fears that a potentially toxic material used for ballast may be released into the marine park from the rusting structure.
A GBRMPA spokesperson said under the legislation, it was the owner's responsibility to ensure structures in the marine park were permitted or to take steps to remove it.
"The Marine Park Authority made several attempts to encourage a new permit application from the owner of the Middle Island Observatory, however we're yet to receive one or see the owner remove the infrastructure," the spokesperson said.
"We've inspected the site and are seeking expert advice on the short and long-term effect of the infrastructure remaining in the marine park - we'll use this information to inform whether a formal removal order should be issued.
"If an order is issued - and the owner fails to comply with the order and doesn't remove the structure within the timeframe - we could move to prosecute the owner for failing to comply.
If this situation arises, they will give the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions a brief of evidence to determine if there was sufficient evidence and public interest to prosecute the matter.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry confirmed last week that she had raised the issue with Environment Minister Sussan Ley and recently called Tower Holdings to discuss the matter.
"They are working on some things that they are not releasing to the public as yet," Ms Landry said.
"They told me when they first took over, they spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on doing it up and within the last six to 12 months they've done a bit more work on it," she said.
"But I said to them, 'what are you doing about this' because the locals are worried about it and something needs to be done.
"They really didn't have an answer for me on that so I am following up."
Ms Landry understands that Tower Holdings was working towards a solution with CQG's company director Patrice Brown, a corporate environmental advisor, and she also planned to follow up with them.
"I think what needs to be looked at with this is if it's viable to do up again, to be operational or maybe they can decommission it, take off anything that's toxic, and leave it as a (diving) wreck," Ms Landry said.
"I think it would disrupt the coral and the fishes more by ripping that out of the water than decommissioning it so I think that is something that certainly needs to be looked at."
"Fisherman and divers have said to me it's quite good to go diving around that area but it's just the fact that there are toxins in that hub."
It is unclear whether the observatory was included in a recently signed contract for the sale of the GKI Resort Development to Altum Property Group.
Tower Holdings were unwilling to comment.