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

Keswick leaseholder hits out at ‘anti-development’ residents

THE developer at the centre of the Keswick Island firestorm has lashed out at island residents and sublessees, alleging a majority of them are "in breach of their leases".

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

China Bloom - which has remained silent on the issue since the claims first came to light in July - has issued a rare statement in which it describes the residents and sublessees as "anti-development".

The three-page long statement alleges some residents and sublessees are in breach of their leases over a range of issues including not paying lease fees, rents and levies.

China Bloom said other issues included a majority of them not maintaining their lots for fire prevention, building non-compliant and illegal structures, building non-cyclone proof buildings and not building a house within five years of buying their lot.

The statement said China Bloom had been making changes to the island's operation to ensure compliance with the regulations set out in the headlease agreement.

Basil Bay, Keswick Island.
Basil Bay, Keswick Island.

China Bloom, who purchased the headlease for the island from Keswick Development Pty Ltd in April 2019, argued many lease requirements had previously not been adhered to before it took over the responsibility.

"Failure to manage the headlease agreement conditions will ultimately result in the developer losing its right to the headlease," it said.

"A selected few sublessees are now reacting to China Bloom's management of their leases in accordance with the headlease and the agreed terms of their subleases.

"These residents have indicated they are anti-development for many years and are actively working to undermine the progress of any future development of the island."

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The headlease owner went on to dispel a number of accusations levelled against it in recent months.

Locals are fighting the Chinese lessees of this island over disagreements about access to their homes.
Locals are fighting the Chinese lessees of this island over disagreements about access to their homes.

China Bloom said the island had always been open and it was working with the State Government to increase visitation and access on the island for both tourists and residents.

This includes a draft masterplan for the island which comprises of house constructions, a hotel facility, a new boat ramp, jetty and boat marina.

"There are currently three modes of transport available to access the island. These include a barge service, two charter helicopters, and private boat access," it said.

"In preparation for the pending summer tourism period, the developer is planning to improve visitation by introducing daily ferry services, as of mid-December 2020.

"This will run in addition to the current barge and aviation services."

The developer says there are currently 21 houses on the island, three of which are occupied by the island's four permanent residents.

There are 136 subleases and the majority of sublessees use the island as a holiday destination.

"Under the terms of each sublessees' agreement, their individual properties cannot be sublet," China Bloom said.

"The developer meets with sublessees regularly, including providing monthly updates on the progress of works and other issues."

WHAT ELSE CHINA BLOOM HAD TO SAY:

Transport:

"In the first quarter of 2021, the island's plane service, which was paused as with the aviation plane industry with the COVID-19 pandemic, will be reinstated to increase capacity.

"In addition, the two helicopters already servicing the island, will continue to be available for booking at any time by either residents or tourists.

"Residents and tourists wishing to visit via boat can freely use the current temporary boat ramp, until the new ramp is completed, in addition to boat moorings."

Beach access:

"General public can freely access any of the island's public beaches from Mackay or neighbouring islands.

"However, notification is required if they wish to enter the residential component of the island as per obligations set out in the headlease, and consistent with other islands in the region."

A woman snorkelling in the pristine waters off Keswick Island. Picture: Mark Fitz Photography
A woman snorkelling in the pristine waters off Keswick Island. Picture: Mark Fitz Photography

Access to national parks:

"The developer has no control over the national parks as they are not included in the headlease agreement.

"Any access to the national parks is managed by the Queensland Government.

"Importantly, all of the island's national parks are entirely open with unrestricted access."

The airstrip:

"The island's private airstrip has never been closed and remains open to commercial pilots who are cleared to land."

Plane access:

"The island is accessible to commercial pilots. A resident with a recreational pilot's licence has recently been prevented from using the private airstrip following a safety issue.

"This was implemented to prevent the island's only airstrip from being closed due to potential safety concerns."

Turtle nests:

"The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has determined there have been no turtles residing or nesting on the island for over ten years.

"Photographs showing turtles were taken 10 years or more ago.

"Furthermore, the beach where they used to nest was not graded by the current developer, but by a previous head lessee over 10 years ago."

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