ISLAND ABANDO: View looking north from South Molle Island.
ISLAND ABANDO: View looking north from South Molle Island.

Long road is ahead

WHETHER investment from the private sector will flow confidence through to languishing island resort leaseholders remains to be seen.

The State Government has noted the Whitsundays will receive a $2.7 billion slice of the $13 billion being spent on Queensland tourism developments over five years.

The lion's share of the money is the $2 billion on the Laguna Whitsundays resort upgrade, with the other $700 million being spent between the developers of Lindeman, South Molle and Daydream Island.

But caretakers are currently the only occupants of CCIG- owned South Molle island and the White Horse-owned Lindeman resorts.

White Horse has a $600 million proposal to develop three resorts on Lindeman Island, with an expected 2020 completion date. An environment impact statement is awaiting State Government approval to proceed.

CCIG took ownership of South Molle Island in August last year and is "currently looking at various options for the operation and redevelopment of South Molle".

Absent from the Queensland Government's list of developments awaiting a promised re-vamp are Hook Island Resort, and Long Island's Happy and Paradise Bay resorts.

Long Island's Palm Bay resort remains operational and open to guests.

There are 24 resorts on leasehold land in the Great Barrier Reef but only 13 are open for business, according to the State Government.

Of the remaining 11 resorts, nine have redevelopment plans in place and two resorts are subject to private party negotiations to resolve their future.

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines said since October 2015, it had issued three island resort lessees with Notices of Intention to Forfeit for their leases.

The reason for the high vacancy rates of Whitsunday island resorts was described as "complex" in a Department of Tourism statement provided to the Whitsunday Times.

"These are complex issues which require cross-agency attention and collaboration. This is why we have formed the Great Barrier Reef Island Resorts Interagency Working Group to map out a strategic plan of action," the statement read.

Lease arrangements on island resorts have been blamed by former tenant of South Molle Island Craig Ross, who previously cited a 50% increase in lease fees which "crippled the islands".

"Not once has anyone from government come to me or any of the other islands and said, 'what can we do to make this work?'," he said after putting South Molle Island up for sale in August last year.

According to a joint Queensland department statement, island leaseholder costs did rise between 2008-2010.

"Land valuations increased sharply during the mid-2000s - ie. between 2008 and 2010 the rental calculation rate for (an island resort) type of lease increased from four to six per cent," the statement said.

"In recognition of the effects the increased rents would have on leaseholders, the government introduced a capping formula to limit annual increases."

The Whitsunday Times sought comment from Mr Ross for clarity.

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