A gorgeous private island in the Great Barrier Reef has just received approval for a controversial upgrade that will bill in the hundreds of millions.
When it comes to island development, the Australian state of Queensland is having to walk a fine line between its economy and ecology. A hugely contentious project for Great Keppel, a large island on the Great Barrier Reef, has just been approved by the Federal Government, after several years of back-and-forth between environmental and business groups.
Great Keppel is certainly well-situated for tourism – found just off the Capricorn Coast in the wild blue waters of the reef, the island is a vast paradise of more than 3580 acres, with 17 perfect beaches and abundant tropical forest. In 2009, the long-term lease for over 80% of the island was bought by an Australian company, GKI Resort Pty Ltd, with the intention of building a new resort.
While the island has had a minimal amount of development for years – mainly rustic retreats catering to backpackers and campers – the resort planned by GKI is truly a world-class upgrade. The first version, submitted in 2009, was slated to cost more than a billion dollars, but was denied by the government because of its huge size. Green groups were quite vocal in their opposition to the plans, as well.
However, it was just announced that GKI’s resort will be moving ahead, just on a slightly smaller scale. The recently-approve resort plan now covers a modest 3.5% of the island, rather than 2009’s 8%, but still comprises 750 hotel rooms, 300 apartments, and a hotel, along with a marina and golf course.
In an effort to minimize the development’s impact, the approval from Environment Minister Tony Burke did come with an onerous list of 96 strict conditions that need to be fulfilled. These included provisions for water management, consultation with local indigenous groups, and a plan to restore the island’s native species.
Australia’s Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney cheered the decision to let the Great Keppel resort move forward – and said that to boost the state’s economy, job creation is key. Travel to the Northern state has been in a period of decline for the last few years, and new initiatives to draw visitors have been a top priority.
“It will deliver hundreds of new jobs as the resort is built and more than 1,000 jobs when the resort is fully operational,” he said. “The boost to our economy, to our tourism and to our construction sectors will be substantial.”
According to Mr. Sweeney, the government needs greater flexibility when it comes to tourism development. “Our message is clear, stop the approval duplication, alleviate the time delays, cut the cost impost to major proponents, cut approval times and let Queenslanders get back to work on major Queensland projects.”
Read more about this story: ABC News