This is the fifth sale of a Great Barrier Reef island in just two years!
Perhaps an exceptional news story would have been for TOWER HOLDINGS to have raised the $600M for its massive redevelopment and to promote holidays for Australians to enjoy 1000 luxury units, the marina, a golf course and an airstrip!
Having had to close the hotel 10 years ago. For 10 years this has meant a downtime for other businesses on the island due to the constant headlines indicating the whole Island was closed for business.
Thankfully this is an application for a lease sale and not the sale of the island in perpetuity!
Wei Chao in September raised ASIC concerns when it announced it was partnering with a cryptocurrency company to raise revenue … to sell tokens to investors … following which ASIC intervened to stop the promotion going ahead.
Will this be a toe in the water for the new dragons?
GREAT KEPPEL ISLAND’S resort has new buyers, but they’re yet to seal the deal
The sale of a beleaguered Great Barrier Reef island resort to an Asian buyer is being touted as a coup for Australian tourism — but the deal is far from done and dusted.
- Tourism island resort lease to be sold to Asian buyers
- New buyer wants to create ‘Maldives in Australia’
- Sale could be completed in 2019
Great Keppel Island’s resort was a famed party destination in the 90s, known for its slogan “Get Wrecked on Keppel”.
These days it is a half-demolished site.
Its owner, Tower Holdings, closed the hotel a decade ago and had been trying to raise $600m for a massive redevelopment, including 1,000 luxury units, a 250-berth marina, a golf course and an airstrip.
Tower Holdings has now announced it is handing over the proposal to Singapore-Taiwanese company Wei Chao.
Tower Holdings CEO Anthony Aiossa said he believed his company’s vision for the island would be realised with Wei Cheo taking on the project.
“We believe that we’ve taken it to a critical point, we’ve secured the largest development approval within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” Mr Aiossa said.
“It’s extremely obvious that they share the passion for the project and they’ve got the financial means and desire to take the project to the next level.”
Sales agent Tom Gibson said it was the fifth sale of a Great Barrier Reef island in just two years.
“It is an exceptional news story for not just the Queensland tourism industry, but the whole of tourism in Australia,” he said.
But a formal sale still needs to happen, with that not forecast until 2019.
Local leaders ‘cautiously optimistic’
Great Keppel Island is State Government land and Wei Chao is only buying a state lease of almost 1,000 hectares off Tower Holdings, as well as the approvals to develop that land.
The sale will therefore need to be approved by the State Government.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said Tower Holdings had not yet applied to transfer the leases with the State Government.
“Ten years ago, Tower Holdings shut that resort and we lost 200,000 visitor nights every year when they closed that resort. Businesses suffered. The community has suffered,” Ms Lauga said.
“We’ve been waiting patiently for something to happen on Great Keppel Island.
“I am cautiously optimistic about the future.”
There is also a Native Title claim by the Woppaburra people over some of the island.
Native Title claimant Bob Muir Snr said he had a healthy dose of scepticism that the sale would eventuate.
“I welcome the news that there might be something happening,” he said.
“But I’m not going to hold my breath at the moment because there’s too many things in the past that have not worked out.”
Tower Holdings has been contacted for comment.
Last agreement found to be ‘misleading’
The agreement with Wei Chao is the second that Tower Holdings has announced for the island in only a month.
In September, it announced it was partnering with a Sydney-based cryptocurrency company to raise revenue to get its development off the ground.
The plan to sell “tokens” to investors — in a move similar to an initial public offering for shares — garnered news headlines across the world.
Yet within days it had raised the concerns of Australia’s corporate regulator ASIC.
An ASIC spokesperson told the ABC that it had found the promotion was “misleading” in a myriad of ways, and that it intervened to stop the promotion going ahead.
The promotional website has since gone offline and the company has issued a lengthy statement.
Who is Great Keppel Island’s interested buyer?
While it remains to be seen if this latest deal will eventuate, Wei Chao’s company partner Isabella Wei said she could not wait to unlock Great Keppel Island’s potential.
Ms Wei grew up in Australia and said she “fell in love” with the island when she visited it.
“Just imagine with all the hotels and resorts and villas that we’re going to build. It’s just like the Maldives in Australia,” she said.
“We believe that we can together bring the glory back to Great Keppel Island.”
In the years since the resort closed several operators have continued to do business on Great Keppel Island, including a backpacker’s resort and a pub.
One small business owner Geoff Mercer said all he wanted was some certainty for the island.
Mr Mercer said it had been very difficult to do business, with the constant headlines about the shuttered resort making it seem like the whole island was closed for business.
“I think for the first time in 10 years, I’m genuinely excited about it all,” Mr Mercer said.
“It seems very, very real. I think this one will get over the line.”