Plans are being considered for a AU$100 million tourism resort on the largest island in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Image by Jon Connell / CC BY 2.0

Curtis Island, a rugged stretch of scrubland and pristine beaches lying 12km off the coast of Queensland near Rockhampton, is largely undeveloped and has been overlooked by the tourism boom that has gripped the Great Barrier Reef region. Much of the reason for this lies below the surface – the island holds huge reserves of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Until now, the $80 billion LNG terminals have dominated the island’s economy, though they occupy just 2% of land.

LNG terminal on Curtis Island.

LNG terminal on Curtis Island. Image by Lock the Gate Alliance / CC BY 2.0

American businessman Tim Reigel is hoping to change this. Four decades ago his father, Bill, purchased a cattle property on the island with the hope of eventually turning it into a resort. Bill’s proposal stalled during the 1980s, as the government considered establishing a naval base on the island. The base never happened and since then Tim has been engaged in extensive negotiations and approval processes with various government departments to secure permission for the resort to go ahead.

“Sooner or later there will be a resort on Curtis Island,” Reigel told the Brisbane Times. His plans for ‘Turtle Street Beach Resort’ include 177 luxury villas and apartments, tennis courts, pools, a bar and restaurant. If approved, the resort could be completed within two years.

The waters around Curtis Island are home to dugongs.

The waters around Curtis Island are home to dugongs. Image by Jason James / CC BY 2.0

The island is home to diverse birdlife as well as the third-largest turtle rookery in Queensland, where flat back turtles nest and hatch between October and March each year. Habitats on Curtis Island range from wetlands, to mangroves, to scrubland, of which some 14,000 hectares have been protected by national and conservation parks. The waters surrounding the island provide vital habitat for dugongs and other reef sea life.