HEAD LEASE HISTORY
The overall land development lease area, which is situated in the north-eastern and eastern area of the island, totals around 117 hectares and occupies over 4½ km of ocean front land. Resort complexes and residential housing capable of supporting a tourist and residential community are expected to be developed at some stage. The island already has some existing infrastructure such as an airstrip, sealed roads, communications services, and various utilities. The first development started in 1995 with Transtate Pty Ltd then the development company changed hands from Keswick Island Pty Ltd in 2002, then it transferred to Keswick Developments Pty Ltd (KDPL) in March 2008. In May 2019 the head lease was sold to China Bloom (Hong Kong) Ltd who uses Greaton Keswick Pty Ltd to manage the development and Ernst Corporate Body Managers to liaise with the sub-lessees.
📸 Photo credit: Salty Summits
Located in a World Heritage Site and being within the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park requires that building and construction is governed by environmental guidelines, detailed architectural and design codes to facilitate an eco-friendly development. Read the Head Lease here » plus the Deed of Agreement here » These two documents go hand-in-hand.
Development in the Whitsunday Islands is limited. Keswick Island still remains relatively undeveloped. The island is inhabited by a small number of private residents and there are currently 22 established properties. With more than 100 sub-leased land lots already established on a ninety-nine year leasehold (through to the year 2096), the numbers of residents and tourism should be expected to grow significantly with any planned development.
📸 Photo credit: Karen Anne Jean Cooke
TROUBLES WITH CHINA BLOOM
The settlement process took more than six months before China Bloom secured the head lease on Keswick Island in March 2019. The island had been for sale for approximately three years prior for around $25M, and we know of at least two other consortiums from Australia and the UK that were interested in taking over the head lease. However, KDPL had an exclusive contract with Colliers International to sell the island to the Chinese market. See their advert here »
No non-Chinese buyers were offered to bid for the island’s head lease. KIPA sent an email to George Christiansen about this matter. Read the letter here » During that time the Keswick Island Progress Association Inc. (KIPA) attempted to make contact with the new head lessee in response to their first email to sub-lessees in to establish an open channel of communications. Read the letter here » No response was received.
Keswick had already been undergoing some regular changes that were making an impact on both residents and visitors, so when an opportunity arose to communicate directly with the CEO, Nicho Teng, KIPA wrote a letter about the current issues being faced. This letter was passed on privately to Nicho in June 2018. Read the letter here »
Once China Bloom secured the lease, their Development Manager in conjunction with the Island Manager undertook to communicate its intentions to the sub-lessees individually. Sub-lessees started receiving letters from China Bloom’s solicitors making unreasonable demands. As a result, the tensions started rising dramatically as our lives as we knew it were forced into a downward spiral as more and more services and facilities were denied to the residents. What really upset the sub-lessees were the works being undertaken on the island without appropriate approvals, especially the ones that affected the environment. Add to that the offensive keep out signs posted all over the island at entry points and the sign in Basil Bay saying KEEP OUT. This kind of thing just shouldn’t happen in Australia.
This graphic shows the difference in facilities from the previous head lessee to the current one from when they took over to now. The problem areas are shown below.
As a result, all tourism and access has been dramatically downgraded to the point of no visitors for a period of a year… Now one never quite knows what to expect on Keswick next! Luckily we have a strong, passionate community that have a burning desire to protect the island. We are 100% committed to fight for our rights to have a head lessee that will follow the dictates of the Deed of Agreement & Head Lease.
In February 2020, KIPA compiled a submission and presented it to the government in Brisbane. The document is lengthy, hence the reason it hasn’t been included here… However, the presentation that was shown to the Premier’s Chief of Staff and DNRME representatives can be viewed here »
📸 Photo credit: Craig Gilberd