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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9262

Ms LIVERMORE (7:31 PM) —I wish to bring to the attention of this House a matter of grave concern to many of my constituents in Central Queensland. In recent weeks my office has received representations from a large number of individuals and groups about the proposal by Tower Holdings to redevelop Great Keppel Island, which is situated some 15 kilometres off the Central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon. It is my understanding that Tower Holdings are proposing a major redevelopment of the island. I believe they wish to develop three major resort hotels, two large golf courses, a new international airport and a large marina, together with an extensive residential development.

Tower Holdings have bought out the existing resorts on the island and closed them down. It is my understanding that they are now asking the state government to change the area known as lot 21 from a recreational lease to a development lease. The area known as lot 21 is 875 hectares, which is 60 per cent of the total land area of the island. I would submit that the area known as lot 21 deserves protection. I feel a responsibility to try to conserve the island’s fringing coral reefs, the rocky littoral zones, the sandy beaches, the mangrove wetlands, the eucalyptus forests, the coastal scrub and the parabolic dune system. I must also mention the highly significant archaeological sites, which are an enduring link between the land and its traditional owners, the Wappaburra people.

The scale of the proposed development by Tower Holdings would bring many thousands of people onto this largely pristine and fragile island and would, in my view, destroy the island as we know it today. Tower Holdings’ proposal is such that it must impact on the environment, and one has to assume that the proposed marina will trigger the Commonwealth’s EPBC Act. After all, Great Keppel Island is in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the area around the Keppel islands has already been the site of some of the most severe coral-bleaching events seen on the reef. And last week’s water quality report released by the Queensland government showed that the reef remains under serious threat from excess nutrient and sediment run-off. It is hard to see how the Tower proposal could avoid placing even more stress on this already fragile marine environment.

Since acquiring the existing resort on the island, Tower Holdings have closed the resort, putting the 110 people employed there out of work and leaving local businesses on the island and the mainland that depend on tourist traffic to fend for themselves. Not surprisingly many of these small businesses have been forced to close. Businesses in Rockhampton have also been negatively affected by the closure of the island resort. A conservative estimate of the impact on our regional economy as a result of the closure of the resort has been calculated at upwards of $35 million. One could hardly call Tower Holdings a good corporate citizen of Central Queensland.

Looking ahead, I am concerned for the impact on traffic through Rockhampton airport if the Tower proposal for an international airport on the island goes ahead. In 1998, one of my first commitments to the people of Central Queensland was to have Rockhampton airport’s runway lengthened to take aircraft up to 747s. This has been done and the airport at Rockhampton continues to prosper. However, I am concerned when I look at the effect the development of the international airstrip on Hamilton Island had on the airport at Proserpine and to what extent the Hamilton Island development has contributed to the continuing financial problems for Proserpine airport. Rockhampton was and should remain the gateway to Great Keppel Island.

While I would welcome an appropriate redevelopment of the now closed resort on Great Keppel Island and the benefits this would bring to our community in Central Queensland, I do not believe it is possible to place some thousands of people on the environmentally sensitive and very beautiful Great Keppel Island without destroying the island and all it has to offer. My constituents need to know that I hear their concerns and I will not support the Tower Holdings proposed redevelopment of Great Keppel Island in its current form.