After 10 years of sitting dormant and derelict, a once-iconic resort off the central Queensland coast has been demolished.
Great Keppel Island’s resort was famous for its slogan “Get Wrecked On Keppel” in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was bought by Sydney-based company Tower Holdings in 2006 and the developer shut its doors two years later.
It has been sitting empty ever since.
In 2012, the company had a masterplan approved to turn it into a $600 million development complete with golf courses, shops, accommodation, casino and a marina.
But after stoushes with the state government over casino licences and deadline lapses, as of this year the company had so far not turned a sod.
Company searches for new resort partner
In May, it put the land on the market and has been looking for a partner to build a new resort.
Today State Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga would not give a formal deadline for when this would happen.
Mrs Lauga said she expected Tower to have an investor or partner by March.
“We don’t want an investor to just come in and sit on this for years. We want to see action,” she said.
To comply with the terms of its 99-year lease, the company has now demolished 12 buildings on the 160-hectare site, moving 12 tonnes of asbestos back to the mainland.
Mrs Lauga described the demolition as a major milestone for the redevelopment of the southern Great Barrier Reef island.
The resort’s dormant state has been a cause of concern and protest for locals in the region.
Tower Holdings has a suite of leases with the Queensland government across Great Keppel Island, but it is the 162-hectare land holding – encompassing what was the resort, marina and associated approvals to develop it further – listed for sale.
“The resort redevelopment is fully approved and ready to go and Tower – in finding an investment partner – will need to seek the approval of the state government in order to progress with any type of transfer of the leases,” Mrs Lauga said.
“But that might not be what happens.
“Tower is in the process of finding a partner and what that ends up looking up really depends on Tower.”
‘Logistical challenges’ for demolition
Andrew Brown, a project manager from CQG Consulting that has been surpervising the project, said the demolition had come with its challenges.
“It’s not a bad place to work, but it does have its logistical challenges with barges and just getting equipment up the beach,” Mr Brown said.
“There’s a limit as to what you can get off a barge and move across the sand.”
Because of that, work was done at a small scale and stopped at a slab level rather than digging underground.
About 12 tonnes of asbestos was removed and 40 to 50 skips were filled with rubbish.
Some buildings have been demolished down to the foundations, but others remain.
Consultants have said they could be of use during the construction period to house site offices or worker accommodation.
Traditional owners consulted
There were also cultural considerations, with a burial site belonging to traditional owners, the Woppaburra people, nearby.
“We had some representatives of the traditional owners that came over in the early stages before we started and I think it was every Friday they would come over, have a walk around and have a look and see what was happening,” Mr Brown said.
“I guess the risks for this project were quite low in terms of cultural heritage given that we’re not disturbing the land.”
Most of the site remains an eyesore.
Sales agents say they are still in negotiations with four potential buyers, with an expected price tag of about $25 million.