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Australia Residents frustrated by developer's management of Keswick island

03:06  24 september  2020
03:06  24 september  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Keswick Island residents say the head lessee, China Bloom, conducted excavation works along Basil Bay in November 2019, during turtle nesting season. The department had since advised Keswick Island management not to conduct works on the beaches without approval.

Keswick Island is a natural wonderland – a world of national parks and tropical rainforests, fringed by Basil Bay Hut is a great spot to base yourself during a Keswick Island Day Trip. It has BBQ facilities, picnic tables, shelter and power… not to mention Basil Bay on your doorstep!

a body of water with a mountain in the background: Keswick Island, off the coast of Mackay, was acquired by China Bloom in 2019 and is managed by the company's local agent, Greaton. (ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons) © Provided by ABC Health Keswick Island, off the coast of Mackay, was acquired by China Bloom in 2019 and is managed by the company's local agent, Greaton. (ABC Tropical North: Angel Parsons)

Life on Keswick Island seems like a dream: a tropical paradise with magical views, crystal-blue water and secluded bays.

But residents say their paradise has not been the same since Chinese developer, China Bloom, acquired the main lease for the island in May 2019.

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Homeowners Rayna and James Asbury said they remained worried about the island's future.

"To live here is a real challenge now for people," Ms Asbury said.

"Although you're in paradise, you're stuck."

The shoreline had been excavated, access to parts of the national park blocked and 'Keep Out' signs erected around the island, raising questions about the company's environmental conduct.

China Bloom, which engaged its Australian agent, Greaton, to manage the project, has not yet publicly revealed its plans for the island.

Excavation of known turtle habitat

Rayna Asbury said she was shocked to see one of the island's shorelines, Basil Bay, excavated during turtle nesting season in November 2019.

The works, according to locals, flattened the shoreline and covered grassed areas with sand.

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He invited residents of Keswick to 'invade' Derwent Isle and he would fire an (unloaded) cannon at them as they approached. In 1844 the house was sold to Henry Marshall, a wealthy flax-spinning entrepreneur from Leeds. Marshall called in the popular architect Anthony Salvin to extend the house

"I looked down off our deck and this great big yellow telehandler [extendable forklift] was going up and down the beach," Ms Asbury said.

Resident Craig Gilberd said he was concerned the works would destroy turtle habitat.

"I spend a lot of time diving around here, I know underwater as well as I do above water and we see these beautiful turtles, beautiful animals a lot."

Because of a lack of data, turtle expert, Honorary Associate Professor Dr David Booth from the University of Queensland, said it was difficult to assess the environmental impact.

"Typically, the sea turtles might have targeted that dune to lay their eggs or concentrated along there," Dr Booth said.

"I don't think it's appropriate for developers to go ahead and do things like that without getting appropriate permits because they are altering the beach line, and beaches are actually public property."

Queensland's Department of Environment and Science said it found no evidence of permanent damage to turtle habitat or nests during inspections between May and July this year.

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The department had since advised Keswick Island management not to conduct works on the beaches without approval.

The Mackay Regional Council said initial reports from some residents indicated previous owners might have conducted some clean-up work on the beaches after a high wind event, but were not verified.

The council is also investigating China Bloom after it built a new boat ramp and stopped residents using the existing one.

"Records fail to show approval for such works and we are currently investigating this matter further," Community and Clients Services Director Angela Hays said in a statement.

Property prices and tourist numbers plummet

Most of Keswick Island is a national park, which is open to the public, but residents believe the 'Keep Out' signs have warded off tourists.

Real estate agent and resident Karen Cooke said property prices had plummeted in recent years, and access to the island had become too difficult because the airstrip was now off-limits to private and commercial planes.

"Houses have been built for say $800,000. They're going under contract for just under $200,000 and less," Ms Cooke said.

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The Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Plan of Implementation, adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa in 2002, reaffirmed the global community' s commitments to poverty eradication and the environment, and built on Agenda 21 and

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"We had quite a bit of tourism, this would be 10 years ago. That's all sort of disappeared."

Rayna Asbury said she was fortunate to have a boat, but other residents felt trapped.

"Especially if you don't have your own boat, you're basically a prisoner on the island unless you can afford the $2,600 return flight on a helicopter," Ms Asbury said

Earlier this year, China Bloom was ordered to remove ‘Keep Out' signs from the water of Basil Bay.

The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy said where a lease was held adjacent to the beach, the public could access the beach up to the high tide mark.

Rayna Asbury's husband James said residents' concerns had been ignored.

"You wonder, what is the endgame here?" Mr Asbury said.

"Why would a foreign entity owning a place like this in our Queensland be stopping visitors … and our government, our people we are voting for are not doing anything about it."

"It's a beautiful island that should be cherished as such."

China Bloom did not respond to the ABC's repeated attempts to seek comment.


Video: Another 200 beached whales discovered in Tasmania (ABC NEWS)

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