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A fight in the Whitsundays has emerged between locals and a Chinese developer who owns Keswick Island, just 30kms from Mackay.

Wealthy developer China Bloom has closed beaches, parts of the national park, the airstrip and has also banned short term accommodation and rentals on the island after signing a 96-year long lease for 117 hectares.

There are plans for the island to be home to a tourist resort to accommodate 3,000 people.

However, the small community that call Keswick Island home are fighting back after being banned from accessing large parts of public land.

Northern Beaches local Deb Lawson is capitalising on the media attention after a viral article from news.com.au.

She has planned a “peaceful protest” at Basil Bay, where the Queensland Government told news.com.au locals are not allowed to go “past the high tide line”.

Her protest, planned for Australia Day, will include “a flotilla of boats”.

“I thought, being a boating community (Mackay), what better way to do that than get a flotilla of boats, let’s get out to Keswick Island.”

“China Bloom don’t have ownership below the high tide mark,” she told 7 News. “So, technically, they can’t stop us getting on to the beach.”

The member for Whitsundays, Amanda Camm, told reporters this week: “This is not Communist China, this is Australia. This is Queensland and this is the Whitsundays.”

A Queensland Government spokesman said that the developer is being urged to do the right thing.

“(We are) working with China Bloom to ensure all relevant activities are in accordance with the terms of the lease, particularly as China Bloom works to upgrade the island’s roads, boat ramps, jetties and marine infrastructure,” a Department of Resources spokesman said.

Local Julie Willis is “gobsmacked” by the outcome.

“I’m gobsmacked that it’s happening in Australia.”

It all amounts to an end to an incredible burden on what was once a “vibrant community”, she said.

“On the surface, it really looks like they don’t want the sublessees there. They have no responsibility to look after sublessees. It’s like they want it as a private island for Chinese tourists.

“It’s a struggle. We’ve tried to come to the table with China Bloom. We’ve been given assurances by the State Government that our concerns have been taken on board but we feel like we’re not being listened to.”

This article originally appeared on Over60.

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