'Rite of passage' to vandalise Great Keppel Island, resort developers say

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Vandalism of the dilapidated Great Keppel Island Resort is out of control, with teenagers travelling to the island intent on causing damage, potential redevelopers say.

Police are investigating two suspicious fires that started on the island on Saturday afternoon.

They say one began in an unoccupied employee accommodation building, which destroyed 20 staff accommodation units.

Shortly afterward, another fire started in a neighbouring building.

An aerial view of Great Keppel Island.An aerial view of Great Keppel Island.
Sydney-based developer Tower Holdings leased Great Keppel Island Resort in 2006. It then closed two years later.(Supplied: Tower Holdings)

Forensic and arson investigators processed the fire scene today and were treating the blazes as suspicious.

Directors of Altum Property group, which had signed a contract with the current lessors, visited the site today.

“Unfortunately, where it has been broken windows and fence cutting in the past, they are becoming more brazen.

“What we have seen this weekend is a broad daylight attack on not one, but two buildings, the second just 50 metres away from the first, while rural firefighters were putting out the first fire.”

A fenced off resort featuring a sign that says 'Private property: keep out'.A fenced off resort featuring a sign that says 'Private property: keep out'.
The Great Keppel Island Resort has been closed since 2008.(ABC News: Maria Hatzakis)

Mr McCready said the vandalism had been ongoing at the resort since 2015, but had gradually become more apparent.

He said he had raised the issue with the council land local members, and that construction needed to get started for greater passive surveillance.

“You don’t get this sort of vandalism and damage when you’ve got an active presence,” Mr McCready said.

Sand covers a pool, blue sky with palm trees in the background.Sand covers a pool, blue sky with palm trees in the background.
The old beachfront pool at Great Keppel Island Resort has been filled with sand.(ABC News: Megan Hendry)

Island becomes an election issue

The island is owned by the State Government, but a resort spanning 160 hectares was leased by Sydney-based developer Tower Holdings in 2006.

The island’s resort closed two years later.

The company had a development masterplan approved to turn it into a $600 million development, complete with golf courses, shops, a casino and marina.

After stoushes with the State Government over casino licences however, the land went up for lease in 2018.

The Sunshine Coast-based developers, Altum Property Group, signed a contract with Tower Holdings to lease the land in August 2019, but had yet been subject to Financial and Managerial Capability Analysis by the State Government.

Keppel Labor MP Brittany Lauga said the State Government was not yet convinced that Altum could deliver the project.

Looking through a fence at the former entrance to a closed resort.Looking through a fence at the former entrance to a closed resort.
The Great Keppel Island Resort, which was closed in 2008. Pictured in June 2016.(ABC Capricornia: Blythe Moore)

“To date, we haven’t been able to get that financial assurance that they have the capital to be able to develop the island,” he said.

“We’ve got $30 million on the table.

“We have been working closely with Altum, they’ve now asked for more.

But Altum Director Rob McCready said the deadline, which was currently the day before the Queensland election, had changed multiple times at the request of the State Government.

“It was the government’s request to extend, so that the contract with Tower did not fall over, as the Government needed more time to confirm their financial commitment to the common user infrastructure on the island,” Mr McCready said.

Altum said it would need a commitment of $47.5 million funding from the State Government to get started on redeveloping the resort.