Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation angry about lack of consultation on K’gari resort proposal: ABC News

ABC Wide Bay  / By Pat Heagney and Lucy Loram

Posted Sat 15 Apr 2023
See original story on ABC here

The Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation says it was not consulted about a resort proposal.(ABC Local: Ross Kay)

The traditional owners of K’Gari (Fraser Island) have condemned the developer of a proposed five-star luxury resort on the island, which claimed to have their support for the plan.

Earlier this week, property developer Chiodo revealed plans to build a luxury resort complex with more than 120 villas and suites, several restaurants and a rooftop bar on K’gari.

Chiodo liaison director Mark Yorston said the proposed resort would be built in conjunction with traditional owners to showcase Indigenous culture and history.

However, Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation secretary Christine Royan said her organisation, which represented the family groups defined through the native title process, had not heard of the proposal.

“We don’t support this proposal and there certainly has never been anything written or an attempt to contact us,” she said.

The Butchulla people were recognised as the traditional owners of K’gari in 2014.

The Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation was established to manage native title rights of family groups.

Ms Royan said she was disgusted the proposed developer Chiodo had attempted to go “through the backdoor” and engage with a different group to develop on the world heritage-listed island.

Key points:

  • The traditional owners of K’gari say they were overlooked in a proposal for a luxury resort development
  • The developer says it is open to working with traditional owners to promote cultural awareness
  • The council and state governments say they have not received a development application
A women with black hair and glasses stands in front of sand

Chris Royan has been angered by a proposal to build a resort on K’gari. ()

“As a prescribed body corporation, it is actually against our law and custom to speak to one or two people or one group,” she said.

She said the corporation represented 15 clans and was set up to do things for the benefit of all of them.

“For this developer to go to one family group, it’s actually a disgrace,” she said.

Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said traditional owners should always be included in discussion about developments on their land.

“I think it’s of course concerning in any instance where people aren’t properly consulting the traditional owners,” she said.

“We are doing everything we can at a state level to make sure that the decisions we make are based on the views as well of traditional owners.”

young woman in a pink jacket smiling at for a picture

Meaghan Scanlon says it’s important traditional owners are consulted about developments.()

The proposal

Mr Yorston said Chiodo had entered into a joint venture with the K’gari Educational and Cultural Centre Aboriginal Corporation.

“Once we’ve finalised matters with the government and we get to the stage of developing final designs, we would imagine that we’d be consulting more broadly with the traditional peoples,” he said.

He said the company was open to working with traditional owners on a proposal that would benefit all groups.

An artist's impression of a large resort with a main building a heap of smaller buildings around it.

Chiodo says it hopes the resort could be operational as early as 2026. ()

Butchulla elder Norman Barney is from the K’gari Educational and Cultural Centre Aboriginal Corporation but is not involved with the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation.

He said he would be interested in working with other local organisations to share their culture with the wider community.

“All I want is to get my people back here, get them jobs, get them to be a part of something that going to be here for years and years to come,” he said.

“We’re talking about people on tours, we’re talking about history talks, we’re talking about cultural interactions and being involved in the building of the site.

“That’s what it’s all about — bringing this mob together and running their own destiny.”

An aerial view of K'gari with the ocean on the left and bushland and a creek on the right.

K’gari is the world’s largest sand island.()

No application yet

Ms Royan said the resort developer “should have done their homework”.

“They should have come to the Butchulla people first, the prescribed body corporation, before they even entered into talks with anyone else,” she said.

“They don’t understand the Butchulla’s aspirations for this country.”

A state government spokesperson said a pre-lodgement meeting was held with Chiodo in September last year, but it had not received a development application for a resort on K’gari.

A Fraser Coast Regional Council spokesperson said the council had not received a development application.