Great Keppel real estate, and rogues are universal

I thought this, on-sent from friends of ours who live on the Keppels, says it all. Greed will be the end of our civilisation, if that’s what you call it:

Great Keppel Island development fast-tracked – but why?

Article from: The Courier-Mail

By Mike O’Connor

September 07, 2009 12:00am

THE 17 white sand beaches, many secluded, shoal gently away into the blue green sea while trees sway obediently in the breeze and ospreys soar gracefully in the thermals that swirl overhead.

Such is Great Keppel Island, which for thousands of years has slumbered in the Capricornian sun, its resort, opened in 1967, occupying a small but unique place on the multi-coloured quilt of Queensland tourism.

Suddenly, this somnolent paradise 30 minutes off the Rockhampton coast has been thrust centre stage, its development declared to be a matter of “state significance” and an application to develop it fast-tracked.

How has Queensland managed to survive thus far without Great Keppel Island being developed?

Only the Good Lord knows.

Why this sudden interest in Great Keppel? The answer lies in real estate and in the equation of life which states that R+D+M = P where R equals real estate, D equals developer, M equals money and P equals politics.

The D in this case is Tower Holdings, which bought the existing resort for $16.5 million in February last year and promptly closed it, announcing plans to build a new resort.

You have to pause here for a moment and wonder why nobody had thought of this before, for it would be fair to say that if there is one thing that this nation does not lack, it is real estate developers looking to make a dollar.

The answer, again, is money, because if you feel the need to run an island resort off the Queensland coast, you can take your pick, mate, because with the exception of Hamilton Island, they’re all for sale.

Island resorts are like fiscal whirlpools, consuming money in million-dollar lots. If you’re rich and would like to know what it’s like to be poor, buy an island resort.

So why would you want to build an island resort? If you were so keen to contribute to Queensland’s tourism industry, why not build it on the coast where the construction and operating costs are significantly lower?

The answer is R equals real estate. The reason Hamilton Island has been so profitable is the money that the owners have made from selling and developing real estate and Great Keppel has lots of lovely real estate that could be carved up into lots and sold for millions of dollars.

The problem on Great Keppel is that a large chunk of the island includes state land known as Lot 21, which last year was declared as protected under the Nature Conservation Act by the State Department of Natural Resources, placing it out of reach of the bulldozers.

The other problem is that a further chunk is controlled by the indigenous Woppaburra Land Trust, a 170ha slice of prime real estate fronting pristine Long Beach with views across a reef-fringed lagoon that would put any developer worth his gold Rolex at risk of death by drooling.

Tower Holdings thought it had stitched this land up for what would seem to be the bargain price of $11 million, flying the Aboriginal trust members to Brisbane and putting them up at a five-star hotel to seal the deal.

The members, however, had second thoughts, possibly because as they arrived at the hotel they saw then premier Peter Beattie leaving the building, the faintest hint of eau de rodent floating in the air. So we have R+D+M and as predicted, this equates to P where P equals Politics, for in the background of these dealings stood the wraith-like figure of former deputy premier turned consultant Terry Mackenroth, engaged by Tower Holdings to offer some friendly advice for an unspecified fee.

In earning this fee, Mackenroth organised meetings between Tower Holdings representatives and then premier Beattie and then deputy premier, Anna Bligh, the Tower executives apparently incapable of picking up the phone and arranging these meetings themselves.

Curiously, no one in government who was in on what Tower Holdings had planned bothered to tell the Woppaburra folk that this would increase the value of their land well beyond $11 million. Perhaps they meant to but forgot.

So Tower has a number of problems. Firstly, it holds a lease over the old resort site and for the past year has been in breach of its conditions because it dictates that the holder operate a tourist facility on the land and it’s not doing that.

Secondly, it needs those other two chunks of land. It will now have to pay more for the Woppaburra land and if they sell at all, the people are to likely to attach environmental caveats to the deal.

That leaves that slab of State Government land, protected from development until the Bligh Government’s sudden decision 10 days ago to fast-track a review of Tower’s plans.

There will be a lot of bleating about “jobs for Queensland” and how the state’s stagnant tourism industry needs a resort like Great Keppel. The truth, however, lies in the equation, which works equally well when reversed, stating that P+M+D = R. Politics plus Money plus Developers equals Real Estate.

This deal is all about real estate and the profits that can be reaped by exploiting it. Always was, always will be. Take away those profits and the chest thumping desire to boost Queensland tourism will fade faster than a Great Keppel sunset.

Bligh will need to step carefully for the Woppaburra folk aren’t the only ones who have smelt a rat.

Doesn’t that man write well?  Bet he’s out of a job soon…..


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