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					                    The Great Keppel Island “voice your voice” rally
                              Sunday 18th October 2009
               An experience through the eyes of Petros Khalesirad “Mr 2020”

With the constant noise of fire trucks, smoke bellowing into the air, all major roads to the coast
closed and stupid onlookers causing unnecessary traffic congestion, my journey to watch the “voice
your voice” rally was already a challenge. I decided to stay home Saturday night rather than take any
unnecessary risks on the way to Yeppoon. I jumped in the car Sunday morning at 5am and headed to
Yeppoon through the back roads. The weather forecast was nowhere near perfect for boating, in
fact it was 20/25 knots SE.

I arrived at Rosslyn Bay just after 6am. The car park was deserted. Was this another sign that the
journey ahead was going to get more challenging? I thought about just catching the ferry across but I
decided to pursue with battling the 3 metre ocean swell on my own. I didn’t want the protestors to
think that i was interfering with their protest.

After almost 2 very long and wet hours and a change of clothes, I arrived at Fisherman’s beach on
GKI and anchored in front of the shark’s mouth. I dropped the tender in ready to go to shore when I
realised that the start cord for it was missing. I remember my two year old son playing with it the
other day?!? Oh crap, it’s still in the back yard! Never mind, I’ll just paddle into shore. I eventually
safely landed almost on Putney’s beach. The weather was perfect for surfing.

I found myself a nice table under the sun as I waited for the ferry to arrive. There were already a
handful of people on the island with protest banners and one yachty even had his entire sail with a
message on it saying “TELL HIM HE’S DREAMING”.

The ferry arrived just after 10am. I noticed on the side of the ferry a sign that read “Help support the
GKI Resort”. As the boarding ladder went out I also noticed the same sign. I thought this was a nice
gesture for them to do.

Protestors were easily identifiable with slogans against Lot 21 written on their shirts and some of the
designs were actually quite good. The protestors aged from 10 years to possibly early 70’s, males
and females. I thought it was a good diversity of representation, but I was also mindful that some
were just “tagging along” for an excuse to spend the day at Keppel. There were definitely no more
than 50 people.

After a quick deliberation by Renton Bishropic to the small group of protestors, they quickly made
their way to “The Haven”. Here they took group photos as they gathered around their banners. The
message for the day was very clear, redevelop the existing resort but leave Lot 21 alone, it’s ours not
yours (meaning Tower Holdings)

The protestors then formed little groups and then started making their way to the lookout. Some
were warned that whilst it was a short walk, the track was in some areas “very steep”. There were
some people I was genuinely concerned about, but I think there was enough experience amongst
the protestors to assist with any situation.

We walked past the old resort and unsurprisingly many people were gutted with the condition of it. I
can totally understand why they feel like this because I feel this way also. However, when I think
back to my frequent visits to the resort when it was open, on nearly every occasion I wished that
someone had dropped a bomb on it so it had to be rebuilt.

Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad                                             Page 1
The walk so far was relatively easy but I don’t think a lot of the people really knew what was ahead.
With the combination of the sun and the heat, we encountered “the hill”. Talking amongst most had
diminished and all you could hear was sounds of “huffing and puffing” and the occasional whinge.

Half way up the hill I heard the front of the group laughing, yelling and chanting “well done Lyndie!!”
To my curiosity I stopped twittering on my phone to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn’t
believe it! To my disbelief someone had painted on the road in big white lettering “Public Land –
welcome to Lot 21” with a thick line representing a boundary. To the protestors this was recognised
and acknowledged as someone “making their mark” and taking a stance. To me it was vandalism.
But this wasn’t enough as further on there was a pothole with the words “our pothole” underneath
it. To me this gesture was a sign that the protestors were in desperation, similar to a football team
that are 50 points down with only minutes to spare so they start to trip the opposition.

Eventually all of the protestors head reached the lookout and to their credit everyone who took on
the challenge was successful in doing so. The view from the top is worth every ounce of effort no
matter how many times you do it.

As soon as everyone got their breath back, both from the walk and the amazing views, the
megaphone was handed to one of the long term island locals Lyndie. She started speaking about
“the so called revitalisation of Great Keppel Island”. These are some of the points she announced in
her speech.

    •   This is how things stand today
    •   We are on Lot 21 now, it belongs to the public with public access.
    •   97% of the plan is on Lot 21 and 2.8% of the plan is on resort land
    •   The new plan hinders on “lots and lots and lots of real estate” 2,000 houses instead of the
        original proposal which was 2,600 houses
    •   It still has a golf course
    •   This plan has a bigger marina. The original plan had a 500 boat marina, the second plan has a
        560
    •   It’s still a huge real estate thing
    •   Peter Garret will be making some sort of decision about this land in the next 10 days.
    •   This is “the tip of the tip of the iceberg” (sic)

The overall message was pretty clear. “We don’t want our Lot 21 to be developed by Tower
Holdings.” The protestors just want them to build where the existing resort is. This is what they
mean by “save our public recreation area”.

Shortly after, the group gathered for a photograph as a “symbolic gesture”. The photo included the
protest banners and also a flag representing the Dugong. Before we made our way back down the
hill, everyone paused for a moment while Lyndie blew through the Dugong whistle. This was an
amazing sound to hear and it actually gave me goose bumps. For a minute there I felt that everyone
was connected spiritually.




Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad                                           Page 2
Obviously walking back was going to be easier. On the return trip I noticed that the protestors were
all walking together, symbolic of a team united. I enjoyed walking from the distance and seeing a
group of passionate people talking about something they love. To me this was an incredible
experience to witness as we all take for granted the opportunity of freedom of speech. In other
countries if you express your feelings in anyway, you would be held in contempt, jailed or possibly
even killed. In Australia the only risk associated to freedom of speech is to be publically scrutinised
and ridiculed and with this it would be safe to say that “time heals all wounds”.

About an hour and a half later, the walk finished where it originally started. Everyone was enjoying
kicking back on a chair in the shade and holding an icy cold drink. It looked like everyone was now
ready to have a good time. There were people everywhere talking to each other and it was a true
demonstration that mankind can work together in unity and harmony. I agree with President Barack
Obama when he says “the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces
that drive us apart.”

The atmosphere was vibrant and relaxed. I felt that this was the perfect opportunity for me to
become visible and introduce myself to some of the protestors. I wanted to hear directly from them
why they oppose this project. I started off with some of the younger protestors who were around
my age. I approached, shook their hand and wanted them to know that I want the best outcome for
our region. The vibe I was given was very receptive and friendly. They really did take to me with
open arms. Some of the protestors were even friends of my family. It was a great feeling being able
to engage with people that don’t necessary agree with your views and to do so without conflict.

By this time it was around 12:00pm and that for me is “get out of my way I’m hungry o’clock”. I
didn’t want to wait long for food so I ordered a bowl of chips. I sat down at a table and was soon
joined by Councillor Glenda Mathers. It was great to see the protestors talking with her. I think they
felt comforted with her presence and she genuinely listened to everyone. She wasn’t there
protesting, just observing like I was.

One of the protestors then sat at our table and it was was Lyndie. Her and husband Carl operate a
small, clean, friendly, eco-sensitive accommodation retreat on the quiet side of Great Keppel Island
on Svendsens Beach. Their property backs onto Lot 21. It’s almost like Lot 21 is their backyard. I
thought this would be a good opportunity for me to ask Lyndie about the vandalism on the road.
She obviously knew something about it because everyone was acknowledging her when they saw it.
Lyndie did not respond well to my question. She quickly stood up and started waiving her finger
around at me. “You don’t know what you’re talking about Petros. How can it be vandalism? Look at
the state of the road. Did you not see the potholes? If you want to blame someone blame Tower
Holdings for not looking after it.”

She quickly stormed off and went to another table. I don’t believe my question was inappropriate so
I followed her and asked again. Eventually I gave up, she didn’t care about my question and so I
moved onto another topic. I wanted to ask Lyndie what she wants to happen to Lot 21? Lyndie
answered with “I want to leave it the way it is. I don’t want Tower Holdings to destroy it with real
estate or anything else”.

Lyndie started to get really worked up so I didn’t continue with any more questions. I didn’t want to
be seen as antagonising her, even though I was kneeled down beside her. This is the first time I have
spoken with a person against the proposal that has behaved in this manner towards me. There is
something that this person is hiding. I know it... I can feel it in my gut.


Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad                                            Page 3
I knew it was time to go home. I walked down to the beach, dragged my tender into the water and
paddled back to my boat. After a quick dip in the water, it was full throttle back to the mainland. My
real journey began when I came home to do my own research and cross reference with what was
said today.

Conclusion

Over the past few weeks, I have tried to speak with all the island residents (this does not include
people who work on the island). Most have freely spoken with me but some don’t want to talk to
me. I would say that 90% of the island ratepayers are in favour of this project. So why is it that only a
few are against it?

The question I want to ask you is this. If the protest rally was about “save our public recreation
lease”, who are they referring to when they say “our”? Is it in reference to the people of the
Rockhampton Region, the people of Queensland and the tourists from all over the world?

It’s pretty obvious that the use of the word “our” is referring to a handful of people that have lived
on the quiet side of island for over 30 years using Lot 21 as their own backyard.

What the protest banners should have said was “save our public recreation lease so I can keep using
it for myself”. TELL HER SHE’S DREAMING!




To view the video of the issues raised by the protestors, click here.
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=102061456478605



To view the photos of the “voice your voice” rally, click here.
http://www.petrosk.com.au/petrosk/gallery.asp?q=6


To view the photos of Lot 21, click here.
http://www.petrosk.com.au/petrosk/gallery.asp?q=5

END




Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad                                             Page 4
                                                       Fiction vs Fact
Issues raised by Protestors                    Actual Fact

We are on Lot 21 now, it belongs to the        Lot 21 is leasehold land. In other words it’s public land which is privately leased
public with public access.                     and allows public access.

                                               Tower Holdings proposal does not seek to change this tenure from public to
                                               private land. The land will continue to be owned by the Queensland
                                               Government and leased to GKI Resort Pty Ltd.

                                               Two thirds of Queensland is leasehold land. (110 million hectares). Lot 21
                                               represents only 0.001% of all leasehold land in Queensland.

97% of the plan is on Lot 21 and 2.8% of the   Tower Holdings are the lessee for the following lots.
plan is on resort land.
                                               Existing resort area consists of 6 lots.

                                                        Lot 2 & 8 = 16.1ha (Existing Resort)
                                                        Lot 31 = 17.75ha (air strip)
                                                        Lot 45 = 3ha (staff quarters)
                                                        Lot 44 = 1.8ha (old golf course)
                                                        Lot 46 = 0.3ha (sewerage treatment plan)
                                                        Lot 21 = 875ha (lease for recreation purposes)

                                               Lot 21 = 875ha (lease for recreation purposes)

                                               The total size of the above leasehold land is 913.95ha.
                                               Lot 21 is actually 2246.47% bigger than the resort lots or 22.5 times larger.

                                               Tower Holdings is proposing to develop 2/3rds of Lot 21 as a Conservation park
                                               (545ha) and the remaining 1/3rd (300ha) will be the golf course and the villas.

                                               The parts of the development not on Lot 21 include the marina, airstrip
                                               upgrade, new hotel at Fishermans beach, retail village, 300 tourism
                                               apartments, water & power infrastructure, yacht club, ferry terminal and some
                                               of the villas – from a cost point of view this represents approximately 31% of
                                               the total cost. The parts of the development on Lot 21 include the majority of
                                               the low rise tourism villas, the golf course, club house and sporting oval – these
                                               are low impact uses and from a cost point of view represent approximately
                                               69% of the total cost.

The new plan hinders on “lots and lots and     The lease conditions do not permit any type of residential development.
lots of real estate” 2,000 houses instead of
the original proposal which was 2,600          There will be no residential houses as part of the project. The current plan
houses.                                        contains 1,700 tourism villas and 300 tourism apartments.

It still has a golf course.                    The original plan had two golf courses.

This plan has a bigger marina. The original    Both plans have had a 560 berth marina.
plan had a 500 boat marina, the second
plan has a 560

It’s still a huge real estate thing            It is a significant tourism project which is sympathetic to the natural
                                               environment. A tourism or recreational lease does not allow for residential
                                               development.


          Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad                                                    Page 5
Peter Garret will be making some sort of            The Environment Department is due to make a decision whether to allow the
decision about this land in the next 10 days.       EIS process to proceed. They are not making a decision as to whether to
                                                    approve the project. This decision can only be made after the EIS is complete.
                                                    It should be noted that Tower Holdings requested the Environment
                                                    Department to review the project; it was not the other way around.

This is “the tip of the tip of the iceberg” (sic)   Anyone who has a genuine interest in the environmental issues associated
                                                    with GKI would be happy that Tower Holdings are going to spend the money to
                                                    undertake an EIS on the island. This is the first time it has ever been
                                                    undertaken. Once the EIS is complete, the community can only then make an
                                                    informed judgment as to merits or not of the project. Unfortunately, there are
                                                    some people who do not want the EIS to be undertaken because they are
                                                    fearful that it may uncover aspects of the island that they would prefer stay
                                                    out of the public eye. I don’t believe Tower Holdings has anything to hide and
                                                    are therefore happy to proceed with the EIS.



          To view the video of the issues raised by the protestors, click here.
          http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=102061456478605



          To view the photos of the “voice your voice” rally, click here.
          http://www.petrosk.com.au/petrosk/gallery.asp?q=6


          To view the photos of Lot 21, click here.
          http://www.petrosk.com.au/petrosk/gallery.asp?q=5




          Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad                                                      Page 6
Version 1.0 (20/10/2009) written by Petros Khalesirad   Page 7

				
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