WHITSUNDAY

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Peter Car­ruthers and Ja­cob Wil­son

DEPUTY Op­po­si­tion Leader Deb Freck­ling­ton said the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of is­land tourism left a lot to be de­sired, dur­ing a fly­ing visit to the Whit­sun­days last week.

“To have a min­is­ter of the Crown, Steven Miles, go on record and call the most beautiful, pris­tine area an eye­sore is not good for Queens­land tourism,” she said.

“You can­not try to sell this amaz­ing tourism area we have in the Whitsunday Is­lands when you have got the gov­ern­ment call­ing it an eye­sore.”

The Min­is­ter for the Great Bar­rier Reef and En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion told the Courier Mail that empty is­land re­sorts were “de­com­pos­ing wrecks and eye­sores on the land­scape”.

Tourism Whit­sun­days CEO Craig Turner agreed such a com­ment was not in the best in­ter­ests of Queens­land tourism.

“The Whitsunday Is­lands are a crit­i­cal part of our tourism ex­pe­ri­ence. You have got Hamil­ton Is­land, Hay­man and Day­dream do­ing a great job and we would love to see the other is­lands get up,” he said.

Whitsunday is­lands with va­cant re­sorts await­ing devel­op­ment by lease hold­ers in­clude South Molle Is­land, Hook Is­land, Lin­de­man Is­land, Bramp­ton Is­land and two out of three re­sorts on Long Is­land.

Palm Bay re­sort on Long Is­land is op­er­a­tional, how­ever the Happy Bay re­sort and Par­adise Bay re­main dor­mant.

China Cap­i­tal In­vest­ment Group snapped up South Molle Is­land in Au­gust last year for a re­ported $24 mil­lion but noth­ing has been done since then.

South Molle Is­land and the re­sort’s own­ers are “cur­rently look­ing at var­i­ous op­tions for the op­er­a­tion and re­de­vel­op­ment of South Molle”.

“(How­ever) noth­ing has been fi­nalised at this stage. De­tails will be an­nounced in the fu­ture at the ap­pro­pri­ate time,” a spokesper­son said.

A joint state­ment from the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment said no devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion had been sub­mit­ted.

Lin­de­man Is­land was bought by Chi­nese owned White Horse Group for $12 mil­lion in 2012.

Whitehorse chair­man Paul Ny­holt said he hoped to achieve a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in the next six months.

“We are in the fi­nal stages on our en­vi­ron­ment im­pact state­ment, which takes 18 months,” he said.

“Now we have sub­mit­ted the doc­u­ment to the gov­ern­ment depart­ment and

are await­ing feed­back, which will hope­fully take six months.”

The com­pany plans to de­velop three is­land re­sorts on Lin­de­man, which is ex­pected to cost a to­tal of $600 mil­lion and reach com­ple­tion by 2020.

Whitsunday Re­gional Coun­cil Mayor An­drew Will­cox said his CEO Barry Omund­son had re­cently met with the Is­land Re­sorts In­ter-Agency Work­ing Group with a view to re­viv­ing the re­sorts.

“The GBR (work­ing group) was formed af­ter seek­ing feed­back from re­gional tourism or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing Tourism Whit­sun­days and other tourism stake­hold­ers in a bid to drive a re­vival in is­land re­sorts,” he said.

“The group will meet with lo­cal is­land re­sort op­er­a­tors to dis­cuss ways in­dus­try and the gov­ern­ment can im­prove the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and eco­nomic out­comes for the re­gion.”

Over the com­ing months, the group will col­late the re­sults of the case stud­ies and eco­nomic analysis and make rec­om­men­da­tions to gov­ern­ment.

The State Gov­ern­ment, in a joint depart­ment re­sponse, stated is­land re­sorts in the Whit­sun­days had strug­gled in the face of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and strong in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for the tourism dol­lar and debt to the state.

The gov­ern­ment ex­pects lessees to abide by their lease con­di­tions, in re­turn for the rights to op­er­ate in these unique lo­ca­tions.

Where lessees owe sub­stan­tial rental ar­rears, the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Mines works with the lessee in an at­tempt to man­age their debt.

How­ever, where a lessee fails to man­age sig­nif­i­cant ar­rears, the depart­ment is able to take for­mal ac­tion through tak­ing pos­ses­sion and sale.

“The depart­ment is cur­rently work­ing with the lessees of four is­land re­sorts to meet their rental obli­ga­tions, and if re­quired, will con­sider tak­ing fur­ther ac­tion,” a de­part­men­tal spokesper­son said.

Since Oc­to­ber 2015, the depart­ment has is­sued three is­land re­sort lessees with ‘No­tices of In­ten­tion to For­feit’ for their leases, due to sub­stan­tial and on­go­ing rental ar­rears ow­ing to the state.

Of the 24 re­sorts on lease­hold land in the Great Bar­rier Reef, 13 are open.

PHOTO: TH3RD DI­MEN­SION ME­DIA

PAR­ADISE LOST: Lease hold­ers of South Molle Is­land are ‘look­ing at op­tions’.

The re­sort at the north­ern end of Long Is­land owned by Ocean Ho­tels and Tourism was due to re­open last year af­ter clos­ing in Jan­uary 2015 for a re­vamp. The is­land is cur­rently on the mar­ket and is ex­pected to co­mand a price tag of be­teeen $15 and $20 mil­lion.

At the south­ern end of the group Lin­de­man Is­land was bought by Chi­nese owned White Horse Group for $12 mil­lion in 2012. The re­sort is in the fi­nal stages of an en­vi­ron­ment im­pact state­ment and a $20m devel­op­ment is ex­pected to be open in 2020.

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