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Yeppoon is a small Central Queensland town with a population of about 6000 people. It is a popular seaside holiday destination.
In 1971, Yeppoon residents heard rumours that a Japanese developer was interested in land at Farnborough, north of the town. Mr Yohachiro Iwasaki, chairman of the Iwasaki Sangyo Group, was buying coastal land and had sought the help of the Queensland Government which was under the leadership of Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen.
The wetlands, dunes and mangroves, and the waters of Corio Bay, are valuable natural assets used by fisherman, both professional and amateur, and for recreation by bushwalkers, campers and four wheel drive enthusiasts. North of this area lay the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, controlled by the Defence Department.
Despite not being outlined clearly, the Iwasaki project was welcomed by the Yeppoon Chamber of Commerce and real estate agents who believed it would bring profit, population and jobs. It was opposed by others who feared their laid-back lifestyle with free access to extensive beaches would be lost, that municipal rates and land values would rise and the fishing catch fall. Rumours that Mr Iwasaki would raise cattle on his land stirred local graziers who feared unwanted competition. Environmental degradation of the landscape appeared inevitable, and foreign ownership of land, especially Japanese, was anathema to many, the Returned Services League (RSL) being an influential group in the town.
The Bjelke-Petersen Government in October 1972 announced that Iwasaki had purchased 930 hectares and would spend $20 million on a tourist resort to receive 20,000 visitors annually. Coast residents at a meeting in Yeppoon Town Hall on 16 November 1972 expressed, in principle, support for the project by 634 votes to 106, but opponents then organised and promptly formed the Capricorn Coast Protection Council (CCPC). A coalition of environmentalists, fishermen and RSL members, it sought to uncover information about the project and oppose it.
As unease about the project mounted, the Queensland Government formed an inter-departmental committee of enquiry, the Barton Committee, which met through 1974. It issued a report unambiguous in its criticism, noting a lack of information which prevented any conclusions about the size, location and scope of the resort. It noted threats to the environment and recognised public concerns about foreign ownership of land, the desirability of Australian equity in the project, and the importance of preserving public access to beach and recreation areas. Yeppoon residents, those who favoured the development and those who opposed it, wanted the towns character to remain unchanged - extensive development or a Japanese enclave was not wanted. A submission from the CCPC raised these issues and others: damages to mangroves threatened the local prawn and scallop industry, intensive cattle raising would compete with local beef producers, beachside development would erode the dunes.
The Barton Committee’s main recommendation, that assessment of the project required more information, did not halt the project. To enable Iwasaki’s land negotiations Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen introduced a Bill for a Franchise Agreement to the Parliament on 26 April 1978. A means of granting privileges to the developer, it exempted Iwasaki from several Queensland statutes, gave concessions on leasehold land, and allowed the sale to the Government of seafront land owned by Livingstone Shire Council for lease to Iwasaki. The Queensland International Tourist Centre Agreement Act 1978 provoked strong questions from the Labor Party, but was pushed through by the Premier in an all night sitting on 17 May. Iwasaki could now legally purchase and lease Crown Land and develop it outside the planning regulations.
Shooting period: May 1978
Format: Super 8, double-system sound
Camera and sound: Peter Gray
Narration written by Garry Lane
Produced, directed, and edited by Peter Gray and Garry Lane
Crowsfoot Productions, Sydney, Australia