One disaster to the next, a slice of Queensland paradise becomes a nightmare
Residents at a failed residential marina resort in Queensland are calling on the State Government to end a stalemate between a collapsed company, council and property owners.
Port Hinchinbrook has been plagued with problems since the global financial crisis.
It has seen a direct hit from a severe cyclone, two companies go into administration, the marina fill with mud and property prices take a tumble.
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment that sold for $565,000 in 2007, last year went for less than $170,000.
Part of the marina sits on a key perpetual State Government lease, which is currently held by administrators.
Gary Scott bought a lot just a few months before Cyclone Yasi smashed the marina in 2011.
He said the tropical hamlet had potential but suffered too many setbacks.
"It's extremely frustrating for all concerned because there's a very large number of people involved," he said.
"All of those have been seriously impacted over the last seven years, through the machinations of companies and failure to get government assistance.
"Without the State Government involvement, Port Hinchinbrook will stay basically the same as it is at the moment — which is not going anywhere.
"The issues are the sewerage, the road maintenance and the dredging issue.
"It used to be a beautiful place for people to go on holidays and enjoy the beautiful surroundings."
Residents 'living in limbo' with battles over finances, marina
Port Hinchinbrook was controversial, even before it was built.
The original developers pulled out of the project in the late 1980s, leaving the site partly cleared but undeveloped.
Tourism heavyweight Keith Williams eventually took over despite environmental opposition, but the Williams Corporation went into administration in 2013.
Unfolding disaster of Queensland resorts
It was sold to Passage Holdings in 2016, which renamed the site Hinchinbrook Harbour but it too was wound up within a year of taking over.
The Supreme Court is set to deliver a judgement within weeks over a separate dispute between corporate investors who are all claiming a stake in the venture.
Port Hinchinbrook is the only safe harbour between Townsville and Innisfail, but the coast guard is often stuck in the mud at low tide.
Former tourism operator Nick Dametto, who became the Member for Hinchinbrook in November, is now petitioning the State Government to help shift the stalemate by at least dredging the marina.
"That coast guard hasn't got all tidal access which means it can take up to six hours for the coast guard to actually deploy from there," he said.
"Those people have been basically living in limbo unsure of what their property is worth, who's going to even service [the property].
"For seven years — can you imagine what that feels like to the residents?"
State Government palms off concerns
A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy, which oversees the lease, said the State Government had assisted to dredge the canal in the past.
But the Department said the precinct was still a "private development" and issues with management should be directed to the court-appointed liquidator.
Environment officers also found damage to the sewerage treatment plant after a landslide at the site but found "no evidence of sewage entering the wider environment", he said.
The Cassowary Coast Regional Council is waiting on the outcome of the court case before looking at any moves to take over maintenance around the project.
Councillor Glenn Raleigh said the State Government should look after the public waterways.
"Once it's re-established as a functional waterway, it's going to provide a huge economic benefit to the region and also the businesses of Cardwell," he said.
"You've got people in Ingham, people in Tully, Mission Beach — they all rely on tourism for this region and if one of those elements is derelict or ignored by the state, it affects all the other operations that relate to tourism in this region."
Across the passage on Hinchinbrook Island an eco-resort has a sorry tale of its own.
It too was leased by Williams Corporation but was closed after suffering financial difficulty. It was also smashed by Cyclone Yasi, looted by vandals and caught fire in 2015.
Administrators are trying to sell what is left.
A department spokesman said any breaches of the lease conditions will be addressed "through the sales process" including any outstanding rent.
"While the resort is unsightly and in a significant state of disrepair, the remaining infrastructure presents no immediate threat to the environment or national park," the spokesman said.
"There are no current pollution issues and the resort debris is contained within the designated lease area."