Drone vision showing the abandoned grounds of a once-prestigious resort in Queensland has angered its management, who have vowed to hunt down those who shot it.
A representative for Capricorn International Resort in Yeppoon on Queensland’s central coast has lashed out at two separate videos showing the debris-strewn grounds of the massive property, which has sat empty and in limbo since abruptly closing in 2016.
News.com.au first revealed the shock drone footage on July 5 and since then a representative of the property’s management has requested the YouTube clips contained in the stories be removed from the video sharing site, saying the individuals who uploaded them would be prosecuted.
Large parts of the resort are closed to the public — only the golf course and a Japanese restaurant remain operation — with perimeter fencing surrounding the drained pool and eerily empty accommodation buildings.
Originally developed by wealthy Japanese businessman Yohachiro Iwasaki, the resort boasted hundreds of accommodation suites, numerous bars and eateries, a Japanese garden and restaurant, a world-class golf course and a huge pool, surrounded by 9000 hectares of bushland and with direct beach access.
But its current state is an illustration of Queensland’s mixed tourism industry fortunes, where some regions are hot spots and others are in despair.
A series of devastating cyclones, coupled with fluctuating visitor numbers and the high cost of running resorts and hotels, has seen a number of sites shuttered.
Capricorn International Resort was in urgent need of refurbishment before it closed, the town’s Mayor Bill Ludwig told news.com.au late last year.
“They’d always needed to do a refurb but they were trying to decide whether to just improve what was there or do a full masterplan,” Cr Ludwig said.
“It was an exciting project but obviously the timing wasn’t right.”
In the end, operator Mercure packed up and walked away in mid-2016.
A STUNNING COLLAPSE
From the time it opened and through the 1990s, Iwasaki Resort was a major Queensland destination and a popular getaway for locals.
In its heyday, private planes would ferry groups of cashed-up Japanese businessmen to the region, to spend their time drinking, swimming and hitting balls on the golf course.
But by the early 2000s, its fortunes began to wane. The management rights were taken over by the Rydges group, who eventually sold them on to Mercure.
By 2010, the accommodation suites were dated and receiving negative reviews from travellers who forked out for luxury and got daggy in return.
Facilities were showing serious signs of neglect and visitor numbers had plummeted.
The Iwasaki family, which retains ownership, promised to invest in a total overhaul of Capricorn Resort, as it was then known, and began making plans.
However, it never eventuated and the sprawling property was abandoned in mid-2016, in a blow for the region that came three years after Great Keppel Island resort, another once-premium destination, closed.
The existing facilities comprise only a small percentage of the enormous site, which boasts an unparalleled 18km of direct beachfront.
ITS UNCERTAIN FUTURE
The Iwasaki family still owns the massive site and has vowed to seek joint venture partners to bring it back to life with a $600 million redevelopment.
Mr Iwasaki’s grandson, Yoshitaro, who now runs the family business, met with the Queensland Government — including directly with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk — several times.
But two years on, the resort’s immediate future remains in limbo. There has been no progress on the ambitious plan to save the existing facilities and build new ones.
“To take it to its full potential, a family company like theirs would need a major investment partner and that’s where they’re at,” Cr Ludwig said.
The resort management spokesperson who contacted news.com.au insisted it was in the process of being redeveloped, but a spokesman for the Department of State Development said it was yet to receive a draft Environmental Impact Statement from the Iwasaki Group.
The website for the resort redevelopment still states: “The first stage of securing development approval is the submission of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) to the Queensland Government in late 2018.”
VIDEO ANGERS MANAGERS
The resort’s management is upset about the two videos showing the state of the resort — one shot from a drone last month and another taken on a man’s mobile phone last November.
A representative said it wanted the people who filmed inside the grounds charged with trespassing “once we identify them”.
The management also disputed some of the language used in previous reporting, including the characterisation of the grounds as being littered with rubbish.
Vision shows debris strewn throughout, as well as discarded outdoor furniture that has sat around the lagoon pool for three years.
The Iwasaki Group has not responded to requests for comment, nor has the Australian company Urbis, which is listed as its consultant for the EIS process.