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Change: Life after the Endeavour
27 Sep 2013
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In 1770 Caaptain James Cook sailed the Endeavour through Keppel Bay. He named the bay and the islands after the Rear Admiral Keppel.

European settlement of the islands began in the mid 1800s. Early attempts to establish a grazing industry (mostly sheep and goats) failed. Many settlers departed in despair, leaving a severely degraded landscape. Sheep grazing continued on Great Keppel Island until the early 1960s.

Fishing and oystering around the Great Keppel Island was more successful. Large oystering businesses were established in the early 1900s. Over the years they declined but smaller harvests on private oyster leases continue.

The first resort established in 1967, was taken over by Trans-Australian Airlines in 1975 and was closed in 2008 for re-development.

The resort is now closed however there is still accommodation on Great Keppel Island which ranges from tents and cabins or even a private beach house on the water's edge. Ferries depart most days to Great Keppel Island from Pier One, Rosslyn Bay. A number of charters, and full day cruises, sailing adventures, and extended tour options are also available from Keppel Bay Marina.

Great Keppel Island once boasted a resort owned by Contiki, dedicated to making it a "backpackers island", though has recently been taken over by Mercure Resort, making it more of a family resort.

After purchasing the lease for the resort and that of Lot 21 which covers about 80 percent of the island, GKI Resort Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of the privately owned Australian company Tower Holdings, closed the facility. They then unveiled a $1.15 billion revitalisation plan for the island. The plan, which has been declared a "significant project" by the Queensland Government,includes a 300 room resort hotel, 300 resorts apartments, 1,700 villas, 560-berth marina and ferry terminal, a championship golf course, yacht club, sporting ovals, childcare facilities, chapel and cultural centre. The plan includes 1, 300 acres (545 hectares) of environmental parkland on Lot 21 which is currently public land for recreation purposes. This land has already been recommended for a conservation park by the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

Tower chairman Terry Agnew did not have a support of the residents of Central Queensland or the Environment Department. The proposal  was rejected by the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett in October 2009 on the grounds that there would be 'unacceptable' impacts to the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef values of the island. Unfazed by the objections and in spite of several other Great Barrier Reef Island resorts closing. Tower Holdings submitted a third proposal early in 2010. The federal Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, announced his support for Agnew's proposal on 22 February 2012. The proposed revitalisation resort project of Great Keppel Island will re-open on 2014.

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