But now, Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, is attempting to resurrect Great Keppel Island, which has the local tourism sector feeling positive for the first time in a long time, but not everyone.
On a tropical Queensland island with the southern Great Barrier Reef at its tip, developers have tried and failed to renovate a derelict resort for the past 13 years.
Could the mining magnate, who has big pockets, succeed where so many others have failed?
“Obviously, when Gina Rinehart’s name was introduced, we felt, well, if anyone’s going to be financially capable of a project of this scale, Gina Rinehart has the answer,” said Kelly Harris, a local tourism operator.
Years of failed attempts
It was once a must-visit party spot, noted for its 1980s tagline “Get Wrecked.”
However, when the Woppa Resort on Great Keppel Island closed in 2008, there were fewer options for lodging.
Tower Holdings received approval in 2012 for a masterplan to turn the property into a $600 million development including golf courses, shopping, lodging, a casino, and a marina.
That never happened after multiple run-ins with the state government over casino licenses and deadline violations.
In 2018, Tower Holdings dismantled a portion of the deteriorating resort and put it on the market, allowing buyers to buy it as a concrete slab.