Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Great Keppel Island tourism and marina development recieves federal approval

Media release
5 March 2013

Federal environment minister Tony Burke today approved the Great Keppel Island tourism and marina development, subject to 96 strict conditions to minimise its potential environmental impact.

Mr Burke said with the strict conditions in place, he is satisfied the project can go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environmental law.

“In considering this proposal I have taken into account the likely impacts on matters protected under national environment law, including measures to ensure the ongoing protection of the Great Barrier Reef” Mr Burke said.

“This proposal has undergone a comprehensive joint assessment between the federal environment department and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

“The conditions I have imposed will  ensure that the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef is not diminished by this development.”

The approval conditions I am imposing on the Great Keppel Island development ensure the proponent must:

  • Develop and implement a series of comprehensive management plans for the Minister’s approval that must be independently peer reviewed. This includes a heritage management plan to consider impacts on indigenous and other heritage values as well as a  plan to address impacts on marine species, as well as listed migratory birds and other key marine values such as seagrass and corals.
  • Carefully manage water including stormwater and wastewater and its interaction with surface flows to ensure there are no adverse impacts on the reef.
  • Develop a comprehensive water quality monitoring program that will monitor the impacts of any changes in water sources on the world heritage property and the marine environment.
  • Ensure there is no partially-treated wastewater released to the ocean, including at times of extreme weather.
  • Report to the Minister on the consultation arrangements with traditional owners on managing Indigenous heritage values, and identify potential employment opportunities with them to help deliver the environmental protection measures.

“I have also put in place an offset requirement for restoration of degraded vegetation within 575 hectares outside the development’s footprint on the island,” Mr Burke said.

“This will be governed by a Great Keppel Island offset restoration and management plan.

The development includes the construction and operation of a 250 berth marina precinct, 750 resort villas and 300 apartments, a hotel and an 18 hole golf course.

Great Keppel Island has been a tourist destination since the 1930s with the first resort established on the island in the 1960s, expanding further in the 1970s before the resort facilities closed in 2008.

Mr Burke said the proposal is significantly different from the proposal found to be clearly unacceptable by the federal environment minister in 2009. 

The footprint for the revised development is 40 per cent smaller – down by 58 hectares - there are 950 or 55 per cent fewer villas in the tourism resort and 310 or 55 per cent fewer berths in the marina.

The proposal now includes considerably improved management of waste water, with no discharge of water into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park being permitted.

The golf course has been relocated away from the Leeke’s Lagoon to ensure larger buffers from migratory bird habitat and to remove its visibility from the sea through retention of vegetation and establishment of screening vegetation. 

The marina has also been redesigned to reduce the extent of dredging required for its construction.

“There have also been further issues which have been raised by representatives of the Woppaburra people. While not all of these issues fall within the framework of a decision under the EPBC Act and some go beyond my statutory powers, I strongly urge the proponent to continue direct discussions with the Woppaburra people in the context of the heritage plan which forms part of these decisions to reach an agreed outcome,’’ Mr Burke said.

Further information on the development can be found at