After decades of broken promises, Queenslanders are giving up on their dream of retiring to a tropical paradise on Keswick Island, nestled at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef off Mackay.
In the late 1990s, several lots on the island came up for sale and dreamers jumped at the chance to own their own piece of paradise.
But many of these batches, still bare, are now back on the market.
Resident Dr Craig Gilbert bought a block on Keswick almost two decades ago, flying to work on the mainland, via his private plane.
But Dr Gilbert said that all stopped when Oasis Forest, formerly China Bloom, took over the main lease in 2016 and banned residents from using the island’s airstrip.
He said it was just one of the more recent frustrations Keswick tenants had faced and believed gaps like this – and the lack of development – had stopped many from building homes. on the island.
No house built
Dr Gilbert said that when they first purchased, an all-tide jetty and marina were on the cards.
“The original batches that were sold in the early 2000s are starting to change hands now, because people are too old, they’ve moved on, other things have happened in their lives,” Dr. Gilbert.
Dr Gilbert said no houses had been built on the island for at least a decade.
The island is home to at least 10 full-time residents, with several others dividing their time between the mainland and their piece of paradise.
Most residents and landowners have had a complicated relationship with Oasis Forest.
Dr. Gilbert said when the lots hit the market in the 2000s, they ranged between $70,000 and $500,000.
One of the lots is now selling for $30,000.
Dr Gilbert said many original buyers have since been “fed up” with the lack of development.
“Some people just gave their blocks back,” Dr. Gilbert said.
Many Keswick residents and mainland visitors have struggled with the former Company Island caretaker but to say relations and understanding with Oasis Forest have improved since Scott Wilkinson took the job in 2021.
Dr Gilbert said he had seen block prices on the island start to improve.
“There have been quite a few blocks sold recently, prices are going up,” he said.
“The main thing is the pier, a pier for all tides. The airstrip has opened up to more commercial and private people and a formal place to park our tow boats.
‘An exciting new time for the Isle of Keswick’
Despite the frustrations, Dr. Gilbert still did not want to live anywhere else.
“There are stunning views, I mean we have 270 degree sea views from our house,” Dr Gilbert said.
Mackay realtor and owner of Keswick Island, Greg Chappel’s PRD agency, has 12 island lots for sale.
“It’s getting better and better to live there, the management of the island is doing everything to have a pier on the island, investigations are ongoing,” said Mr Chappel.
“It’s exciting times again for the island of Keswick, it’s at a point where it’s perfect for someone who wants to own land on the island, and its value can only increase to leave this place.”
Mr Chappel said the blocks were sold as sub-leases, where landlords paid royalties every quarter to take care of landscaping, airstrip facilities, garbage collection and other services.
“Very similar to a corporation,” he said.
“I encourage everyone to come and visit Keswick Island. It’s such a pretty place and only a 12 minute flight from Mackay.
“If anyone has a bit of strength or tension in their life, just put their feet in the sand for 10 minutes on Keswick Island and it all goes away.”
The ABC has contacted Oasis Forest to ask questions about the future of development on Keswick Island
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