Reporter Charles Wooley in a screen grab from Sunday night's story titled 'Paradise Lost' which appeared on 60 Minutes.
Reporter Charles Wooley in a screen grab from Sunday night's story titled 'Paradise Lost' which appeared on 60 Minutes. NINE NETWORK

EXCLUSIVE: Wooley responds to Whitsunday officials

UNDER FIRE 60 Minutes reporter Charles Wooley has hit back at criticism levelled at him by Whitsunday officials.

Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Tash Wheeler and Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox led a chorus of condemnation after the Nine reporter's story, titled 'Paradise Lost', broadcast on the network's Sunday night current affairs program.

The 13-minute segment highlighted that only 15 of the 30 resorts off the Queensland coast are operating.

The show focused on the rundown Lindeman Island, South Molle Island and Dunk Island, and the flourishing Hamilton Island and Bedara Island.

Queensland businessman Craig Ross purchased South Molle resort out of receivership in the early 2000s and later ran it as a backpacker hostel.

He sold it to China Capital Investment Group in 2016, and it was not long after that Tropical Cyclone Debbie ripped through the region, ripping apart the resort.

The same company also owns Daydream Island, which has just reopened after a more than a $120 million redevelopment.

 

Daydream Island Resort, 2019.
Daydream Island Resort, 2019. Contributed

Lindeman Island's famous Club Med closed in January 2012 and also suffered extensive damage during TC Debbie.

However, the island has a large redevelopment proposed which includes three new resorts and 325 suits and villas, estimated to cost about $583 million.

 

Charles Wooley at a piano on Lindeman Island.
Charles Wooley at a piano on Lindeman Island. NINE NETWORK

Dunk Island, off Mission Beach, is owned by Adam Bond, and is currently for sale by expressions of interest.

It is no secret the wider Whitsunday region has copped a whack over the past two years, and local businesses have struggled since Tropical Cyclone Debbie. 

But it was this failure to mention the redevelopments and the six island resorts that are operating in the region that elicited such scathing responses from Mrs Wheeler, and Cr Willcox.

Wooley did travel to Hamilton Island in the segment, and interviewed manager Glenn Bourke about what it's like to compete against the overseas market.

In an exclusive interview with the Whitsunday Times, the veteran journalist said the backlash to his story did not surprise him.

"I'm sure there are people who would rather Australia didn't see those pictures, the sadly neglected wreckage of what once were tropical Australian tourism icons," he said.

Wooley said he had little time for "bureaucrats with glass jaws" and that the Whitsundays should be an easy sell.

He said there would be no shortage of applicants to do that job, and that he'd put his hand up for it, adding he couldn't think of a better job than marketing paradise.

"I will claim that at least I got people talking about the Whitsundays rather than Bali and Fiji," he said.

Wooley said he had always loved the Whitsundays and had travelled to the region many times over the years, but he likened the state of the islands to a set of a Stephen King horror movie.

A screen grab of South Molle Island when Charles Wooley visited the island, for his segment Paradise Lost.
A screen grab of South Molle Island when Charles Wooley visited the island, for his segment Paradise Lost. Supplied

"No one I spoke to in the private sector on the coast had anything good to say about public sector support or rather as they saw it, the lack of it," he said.

Wooley told The Times he stated in the report that nowhere else in the world had the tropical islands this region had to offer.

He acknowledged that it was hard for Australian resorts to compete against the low cost of running resorts in Asia and the Pacific.

Rather than spend his hard-earned dollars overseas, Wooley said he'd happily pay more for a "better experience" at home.

"I stayed with the Charltons on Bedarra and consider it the best boutique tropic resort I have ever visited anywhere," he said.

"I said as much, but the bureaucrats were too busy covering their backsides to notice."



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