Travel Trouble

Chinese developer hits back at Whitsunday locals

Chinese developer hits back at Whitsunday locals

A Chinese developer accused of kicking Aussies off a beach in the Whitsundays has fired back, saying locals are “anti-development” and are “actively working to undermine progress”.

According to news.com.au, wealthy developer China Bloom had become locked in a stand-off with land owners on Keswick Island, 30km from Mackay, after purchasing the head lease in 2019.

The Hong Kong-based company has been accused of closing off beaches and putting fences up to prevent access to national parkland and banning short term accommodation and rentals.

Locals had enough this week when a Christmas tree, which was decked out in ornaments for 12 years had been chopped down following reports of the feud in the media.

The Queensland Government has been facing pressure to intervene after a member for Whitsundays, Amanda Camm released a statement, saying: “This is not Communist China, this is Australia. This is Queensland and this is the Whitsundays.”

China Blooms finally issued a response after repeated requests for a statement.

The company claims all national park areas are open and accessible and they are “implementing changes to the island’s operation to ensure compliance with the regulations set out in the headlease agreement”.

China Bloom claims it is working to “increase visitation and access to the island for both tourists, current and future residents” but the work is being interfered with by a group of residents who it claims “have indicated they are anti-development for many years and are actively working to undermine the progress of any future development of the island”.

The developer says it’s working to build houses, a hotel, a new boat ramp, a jetty and a boat marina and that “previous island management failed to manage operations to the standard required”.

China Bloom has claimed that despite reports in the media, the developer is meeting “with sublessees on a regular basis, including providing monthly updates on the progress of works and other issues”.

It says national parks are “open with unrestricted access” and that a locked gate “featured in media coverage is actually of a private track leading to a construction zone” and that “sub-lessees are able to easily walk around it”.

But residents aren’t buying it, saying their statement is misleading.

Rayna Asbury, who has owned a house on the island since 2005 is a member of the Keswick Island Progress Association spoke to news.com.au on behalf of the residents on the island.

She claims China Bloom is not being completely honest.

On the issue of access to national parks, Ms Asbury claims “the famous locked gate is the only access from the island to the National Park lookout” and that “access is not unrestricted” as China Bloom suggests.

According to Ms Asbury, almost 40 turtle nests were located earlier this year on Connie Bay in early 2020, and that China Bloom’s claim that none have been found for over a decade does not add up.

“Turtles are common around the island and residents frequently see them swimming in the crystal waters of Basil Bay,” she said.

China Bloom has claimed the beach where turtles used to nest was “not graded by the current developer”, but Ms Asbury has said that is a “blatant lie”.

She revealed photos of machinery and turtle tracks were taken in November 2019 and the head lease was transferred to China Bloom in May that same year.

Northern Beaches local Bed Lawson has organised a “peaceful protest” at Basil Bay for Australia Day.

Her protest will include a “flotilla of boats” at the beach where the Queensland Government told news.com.au locals are not allowed to go “past the high tide line”.

“I thought, being a boating community (Mackay), what better way to do that than get a flotilla of boats, let’s get out to Keswick Island,” she told 7 News.

“China Bloom don’t have ownership below the high tide mark. So, technically, they can’t stop us getting on to the beach.”