A proposal for a $583 million development project on Lindeman Island, part of the Whitsunday Islands archipelago, that would see more than thirty hectares of the island’s national park privatized, has come under fire from a local community group.
The Lindeman Great Barrier Reef Resort project would include four new resort precincts, a central village with restaurants, shops, a night club, golf course, an upgraded airstrip and the redevelopment of the existing Club Med resort, which closed in 2012 after suffering damage from Cyclone Yasi.
Details of the White Horse Australia-led redevelopment were made public on 22 July in a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) developed by DBI Design.
The EIS also proposes comprehensive changes to tenure and boundary arrangements and includes plans for an “ecotourism” facility comprising thirty “glamping” tents that would be located within the national park.
Mackay Conservation Group said in a statement that the proposal amounted to a “land grab” and was “yet another attempt by private interests to erode the values of our national parks.”
If White Horse Australia’s plans were approved by the state and federal governments, 36.91 hectares of national park land would be revoked and 5.299 hectares of land currently on perpetual lease would be dedicated to national park land, meaning the overall area of national park land would decrease by 31.632 hectares.
According to the EIS, the proposed boundary changes would result in a more regularized boundary between the resort and the National Park and would remove inconsistent uses of the protected area estate.
The Makay Conservation Group, which first started campaigning for Lindeman Island to be protected from development in the 1980s, has launched a petition calling on Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and national parks minister Steven Miles to reject the proposal.
“Lindeman Island has been declared a national park because of its exceptional scientific, ecological, heritage and recreational values,” the petition reads. “Any changes to the land tenure of Lindeman Island will lessen the protection of those exceptional values.”
White Horse Australia, gained “coordinated project” status for its proposal in May 2015, which allows for the state’s Coordinator-General to coordinate the input of state and federal government agencies into the environmental assessment process. White Horse Group China, White Horse Australia’s parent company, is one of China’s largest advertising and media groups.
The state government has been broadly supportive of the project, with State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham saying the project would create 300 jobs during construction and 300 operational jobs once completed. “The redevelopment is consistent with the Palaszczuk Government’s Advancing Tourism plan to drive growth and jobs in the tourism industry,” Dr Lynham said. “However, it is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and it’s important that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the reef.”
The main design objectives of DBI Design’s masterplan, as set out within the EIS, are for the resort to “respect, improve and complement” the existing location and its natural setting.
The EIS states that the heights of the new buildings are similar to or lower than existing structures and that where height increases are proposed “organic building forms will complement, integrate and appear part of the natural topography.”
The Coordinator-General will be accepting comments on the draft EIS until 4 September 2017.
Dr Lynham said the Coordinator-General was also conducting consultation on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.