Keswick Island’s Basil Bay. Picture: Pauly Vella
Keswick Island’s Basil Bay. Picture: Pauly Vella

Illegal closure of beach has Chinese developers in hot water

A CHINESE company with leasehold over parts of Keswick Island has been called out for illegally trying to restrict public access to the tourism destination.

The local gem that is Basil Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the state, has long been visited by Keswick Island residents and Mackay region boaties.

But signage recently displayed by China Bloom, a developer that purchased a lease to a section of the island in 2019, prohibited boats from accessing the bay.

The sign at Basil Bay, installed by China Bloom. Picture: Contributed
The sign at Basil Bay, installed by China Bloom. Picture: Contributed

The signage generated public outrage, with many questioning the authority of the company to stop boats from entering a marine park.

China Bloom responded by saying they installed it in "the interest of providing a safe and hazard-free swimming area for residents and guests".

However, after the Department of Natural Resources questioned the developers, China Bloom agreed to remove the signage.

The sign at Basil Bay, recently installed by China Bloom. Picture: Contributed
The sign at Basil Bay, recently installed by China Bloom. Picture: Contributed

The government department, responsible for regulating land and water resources in the state, said China Bloom did not hold a lease over any of Basil Bay below the high water mark.

"The bay is available for public use and we have notified the company they are unable to restrict public access outside of their leased area on Keswick Island," a DNRME spokesman said.

The result is a victory for the region's tourism industry, which relies heavily on the public's access to nearby islands.

Mackay Tourism chief executive officer Tas Webber said appropriate access was an important part of encouraging people to visit the island.

He said he would like to see the island opened "as much as possible" for tourism purposes.

 

An aerial view of Basil Bay (right) and Arthur Bay on Keswick Island, 34km north-east of Mackay. Picture: Jewels Lynch
An aerial view of Basil Bay (right) and Arthur Bay on Keswick Island, 34km north-east of Mackay. Picture: Jewels Lynch

"Keswick Island is a beautiful spot and it is a real jewel in Mackay's tourism assets," Mr Webber said.

"We would love to see the island open as much as it possibly can be, so that it can go back to its former glory days where there were always tourists accessing the island."

China Bloom holds leases over two areas of sea bed of about 20 hectares surrounding Keswick Island.

One area is associated with the safe operation of their air strip and the second area is held for the purpose of developing a marina.

The company also holds a long-term lease over 115 hectares of land on Keswick Island.

The balance of the 517ha island is national park and esplanade.