Aspiring GKI developer demands explanation from Qld Govt
THE aspiring developer of the Great Keppel Island Resort development, Altum Property Group, claims it was "blindsided" by the Queensland Government's announcement on how it would spend $25 million revitalising the island.
Currently in the process of taking over the leases for the resort development, Altum had been counting on the Queensland Government to follow through with their pre-election promise to revitalise the island by providing a submarine power and water connection to the mainland.
The government's announcement today provided no details about the future of the trunk connection, instead focusing on other works due to commence before the end of the year including a cyclone rated jetty, barge slant boat ramp, solar with backup generators, visitor facilities including amenities, shade and seating, rehabilitate existing walking trails, new walking trails, viewing platform and water treatment.
In a statement released today, Altum director Rob McCready criticised the Queensland Government's "lack of clarity", being "left in the dark", not receiving requested written commitment to the project and being denied a meeting with Tourism Minister Kate Jones despite asking for nine months.
"This announcement has come as a surprise to us," Mr McCready said.
"In early August Keppel MP Brittany Lauga committed to an increase in the level of financial support from the state to $55m including $30m for on island common user infrastructure and a further $25m towards future undersea power and water, subject to the gap being funded by other sources.
"Additionally, today's new list of items supposedly being funded by the State Government is not 'Major Tourism Infrastructure', as originally committed by Ms Lauga on 2nd November 2017."
Mr McCready said these short-term beautification projects such as maintenance or upgrades of paths and shade structures were more appropriate to being funded by local government as minor works and maintenance.
"Major Tourism Infrastructure means to us significant, strategic assets which will deliver economic benefits and jobs for the region for decades to come, as we had proposed such as the marina, airport, power, water, sewer and roads," he said.
"The taxpayers of Queensland deserve better, these minor works will not create one new bed on the island."
Altum's Director questioned how much thought had been put into this list and whether it was a real commitment, given a jetty was not approved in the current Environmental Impact Statement approvals and as such would require a revised EIS approval from all three levels of government and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a process which typically takes five years and would be unlikely to succeed.
"Contrary to the statements in the media release regarding Federal Government lack of commitment to the local tourism industry, our experience has been that the Federal Government has been very closely engaged with Altum on the project, with MP Michelle Landry arranging meetings with the Deputy PM and Federal Ministers for Northern Australia and Tourism, as well as local Senator Matt Canavan," he said.
"In contrast, we have been asking for a meeting with Minister Jones for nine months to discuss the project and written to her three times with no response.
"The Federal Government has taken an active interest in the project, however, like Altum, has been waiting for the State Government to table their written, detailed commitment to the project. This is yet to be provided."
Mr McCready said Altum wanted to work with the State Government as a partner on this important project, but had been left in the dark on major decisions.
"This which is not how we do business," he said.
"Is the State Government still committed to undersea power and water? From the media reports it appears that state Labor government has more than halved the commitment to the Great Keppel Island Revitalisation Project from $55m, down to $25m.
"Does the announcement today mean there is new money on the table or has the government's support deteriorated to $25m on largely insignificant works which do little to support the redevelopment of the island?"
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry has attacked the Queensland Government's GKI announcement saying it was a recycled election commitment.
"In the dying days of the last State Election (Keppel MP Brittany Lauga) promised us $25 million for underground power and water," Ms Landry said.
"Now today, she has relabelled it, with no mention of the underground power and water that she has attacked me over for the last three years."
Ms Landry said the cost estimate she heard to install the underground power and water connection was in the vicinity of $80 million and even if she did manage to secure the requested $25 million from the Federal Government, it still wouldn't have been enough.
"(The Queensland Government has) played politics on this for the last three years, they've made accusations, they've made promises, they've lied and once again, I believe they've fallen on their face with this," she said.
"I think this has put the project in great jeopardy. I think (Altum) are genuine people who have put their heart and soul into this, they've put a lot of skin into the game, and a lot of time and effort.
"Once again we've seen the member for Keppel do a major backflip and the whole thing's gone to putty again."
One Nation's Keppel candidate Wade Rothery claimed Labor had admitted it would not be proceeding with the water and power connection to GKI that was promised at the last state election.
"This will be the final nail in the coffin of any hope of a new resort on the island that would have injected $1.5 billion and created 6500 jobs through its rehabilitation, construction and hospitality stages," Mr Rothery said.
"The announcement has not been approved by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and would unlikely receive approval for several years, if at all.
"The announcement is merely another smoke screen and more false hope for tourist operators and local boaties."
In a conversation with Altum today he confirmed it hadn't been consulted over the Queensland Government's latest announcement.
"I have no doubt that without power and water connected to the island, the buyers will walk away from GKI," he said.
Tourism Minister Jones and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga were questioned on Altum's statement at a press conference they hosted in Yeppoon today.
Read their response here: GKI money juggle leaves sceptical impression