Keswick Island. Picture: Supplied
Keswick Island. Picture: Supplied

‘A bloody total insult’: Boaties plan BBQ protest on Keswick

IN WHAT could be the most Aussie revolt ever, a group of Mackay boaties are planning a barbecue protest on Keswick Island in response to concerns over its Chinese management.

Tensions have erupted on the island between the head lease owner China Bloom and residents who claim access to their homes is being restricted.

They also claim other areas of the island have been closed off to them, property values have dipped "incredibly" and tourists and visitors to the island have dropped considerably.

A Facebook group called "Keswick Island Reclaim Aussies Rights" was launched this week and has since grown to 1300 members.

The group is linked to the protest, though other people separate to the group have also organised their own action.

The group's administrator Jack Spratto said a few boaties planned to head over to the island on Saturday to have a barbecue protest on the beach.

The Keswick Island Reclaim Aussies Rights Facebook group.
The Keswick Island Reclaim Aussies Rights Facebook group.

"It's got to be peaceful, we're not going over there being thugs," Mr Spratto said.

The group description states: "This group is designed to put pressure on (the Palaszczuk) Queensland (Labor) Party to fix this sh**.

"(It's) a bloody total insult to us Australians and I demand the Minister involved for allowing this mess either steps down or better still sacked."

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The State Government handed over a 99-year lease to a section of Keswick Island to China Bloom about 18 months ago.

Natural Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the Palaszczuk Government was committed to "making sure all relevant activities on Keswick Island are in accordance with the lease conditions".

"The majority of the issues raised by a small number of sublessees do not fall under the terms of the lease and are a commercial matter between them and the head lessee as per the Land Act 1994," Mr Stewart said.

"Both parties have legal rights to undertake mediation or arbitration under the Land Act 1994 but, to date, this has not been exercised.

"My department met with representatives from China Bloom last Friday and have been in frequent discussions since.

"My department will continue to work with both the head lessee and sublessees to ensure all relevant activities are in accordance with lease terms."

Mr Spratto, a recreational boatie, said he had experienced his own issues in accessing the island.

"(Some boaties) used to pull up on the pontoon," he said.

"We can't pull up there anymore because they've pulled the pontoon up on top of the boat ramp.

"It's about the unfairness to the people who actually own houses there.

"They have spent their life savings to live their dream over there."

Basil Bay, Keswick Island – Picture: Salty Summits
Basil Bay, Keswick Island – Picture: Salty Summits

A spokeswoman for Greaton Development - a subcontractor of China Bloom - said there was never a pontoon on the island.

Mr Spratto is calling on the government to have China Bloom's lease "struck out".

He also wants to organise a public meeting with Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert, Mirani MP Stephen Andrew, Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm, the premier and Mr Stewart.

The Daily Mercury has contacted China Bloom for comment.

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