Keswick Island, Pristine Tourist Destination Facing China Crisis

A sandy beach at Keswick China Crisis.

A pristine destination, Keswick Island is facing upheavals by a China-based developer. (Image: Walkerssk via Pixabay)

Keswick Island, part of the iconic Whitsunday Island Group, is one of Australia’s most pristine and scenic tourist attractions. Whether it will remain so or not depends on the actions of a Chinese-based developer, China Bloom. This developer, who has acquired leasing rights there, is trying to stop locals from setting foot on the public beach, which is part of the island. This is causing local consternation and the Australian authorities have been called upon by the islanders to intervene.

Paradise island

Keswick Island is just 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) from Mackay City on the east coast of Australia. It is nestled inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and is known for its spectacular beauty. Visitors can enjoy amenities ranging from swimming, snorkeling, and diving to fishing, beach combing, and bushwalking. 

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

The colorful coral reefs, along with the abundant marine life, provide favorable conditions for diving and snorkeling. Three shipwreck diving sites, including the historic Singapore and the Llewellyn, are accessible from the island in just a few minutes by boat. As a national parkland, Keswick Island is protected. The land has particularly rich biodiversity mainly due to its evergreen forests. 

The subtropical climate on the island makes it ideal for all-season tourism. The waters of Keswick abound with dolphins, tropical fish, and manta rays. Giant humpback whales start their migration past the island during the months from July to September. Whale watching is popular among tourists in this season.

Keswick Island is an idyllic place for diving and snorkeling.
Keswick Island is an idyllic place for diving and snorkeling. (Image: via Pixabay)

China Bloom

China Bloom, a developer based in Hong Kong, quietly acquired the head lease for 96 years in 2019 for about US$20 million. The lease holding area of the company is about 20 percent of Keswick Island. Once the lease was acquired, China Bloom soon closed off beach access to the natives by building fences. There used to be a tree growing there that was decorated every year during Christmas time; it was a local tradition going back 12 years. The company cut down that tree. 

All this disruption created widespread outrage and worry among the public, and they asked the government to intervene in the issues. In reply to the local claims, China Bloom alleges that the locals are “anti-development” and are “actively working to undermine progress.” 

After banning short-term accommodation and rentals, the developer says it is working to build houses, a hotel, a new boat ramp and jetty, and that the previous island management failed to manage operations to the standard required. “The story of the Christmas tree is also fabricated,” the company said to

China Bloom also denied the claim of them destroying turtle nests on the beach during excavation. They denied that there ever were turtle nests on the island for the past decade or so.

Public reactions heating up

Rayna Asbury, a member of the Keswick Island Progress Association, who has been staying on the island since 2005, said to A Current Affair that around 40 turtle nests were located earlier this year on Connie Bay, located at the far north end of Keswick Island. This was in early 2020. 

She accused the Chinese firm of banning boats from accessing the public ramp and shutting down the airstrip. The locals who live on the island are getting increasingly frustrated and claiming that access and facilities on the island are maintained exclusively for rich Chinese tourists. 

Rayna Asbury accuses the Chinese firm of banning boats from accessing the public ramp.
Rayna Asbury accuses the Chinese firm of banning boats from accessing the public ramp. (Image: via Pixabay)

Locals seek government action

Amanda Camm, the Whitsundays member, wrote a letter to the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, The Hon. Dr. Anthony Lynham, about the need for government intervention.

Julieanne Gilbert MP, Labor member for Mackay in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, said to ABC that action was being taken since the company was found guilty of breaching the conditions of the lease. 

The authorities have since directed the company to remove “Keep Out” signs. The government also plans to send in officials to meet with the residents and investigate issues further. The islanders remain worried for their own future and for the future of their island paradise.

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

A girl reading a book.

Why Reading to Children Is Important

Reading to children isn’t just a pastime or a spontaneous activity. It has many benefits ...

Shattering your fears.

6 Tips to Conquer Your Fears the Healthy Way

Fear is a normal reaction that helps people avoid dangerous situations or encounters. In instances ...

Flags of Australia, Canada, the U.S., the UK, and New Zealand with the image of an eye on them to symbolize the Five Eyes alliance.

The Highly Secretive Five Eyes Alliance Has Disrupted a China-Backed Hacker Group

This week the Five Eyes alliance — an intelligence alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, ...

Melbourne, Australia.

Dependence on China: Australia at Most Risk Among Five Eyes

A study by London-based think tank the Henry Jackson Society has found that among all ...

Takaharu Tezuka-style kindergarten.

Combining Japanese Ingenuity With Kindergarten Design

A Japanese architect named Takaharu Tezuka wanted a kindergarten that kids would love. So he ...

Parents outside a Chinese kindergarten.

Chinese Media Ordered to Stop Reporting on Kindergarten Abuse

The Chinese government has ordered local media to halt coverage of a kindergarten abuse scandal ...

Giant trolls.

Thomas Dambo: The Artist Who Creates Giant Trolls Out of Trash

Thomas Dambo from Denmark has created something unique for the people of Copenhagen to enjoy ...

The Amazon rainforest.

Study Finds African Smoke Is Fertilizing Amazon Rainforest and Oceans

A new study led by researchers at the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of ...

A dead humpback whale.

Scientists Surprised at Finding a Dead Whale in the Amazon Rainforest

When thinking of whales, you would probably picture these majestic creatures in the oceans, surging ...

Send this to a friend