Brave Hearts Win fair Lady
COOLANGATTA based aviation company Seair Pacific has made its first giant leap into the resort industry after taking over Lady Elliot Island. The multimillion-dollar acquisition includes a 30-year lease of the island, which is perfectly positioned in the most southerly section of the Great Barrier Reef. Owners Peter and Julie Gash made the decision after flying routes to the island for more than 10 years. Following lengthy negotiations with the island's famous owner, Bevan Whittaker, Seair Pacific along with partners, champion ironman Grant Kenny and prominent Gold Coast commercial lawyer Michael Kyle - successfully acquired the rights to take over the island in January. They plan to spend more than $2 million on the island's hotel, renaming it the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, and will run flights from Hervey Bay and their Gold Coast base. Work will also be done on refurbishing the heritage-listed lighthouse, which was built in 1873. Originally known as Southport Floatplanes, the company conducted joy-flights on the Gold Coast in the early 1970s before Mr Gash took ownership of the company in 1990, when they were based at Runaway Bay. Mr Gash, who still lives in Runaway Bay and has been with the company for 21 years, said he was excited by the potential of Lady Elliot Island. "Of all of the islands and tourist facilities it is without doubt a standout," he said. "It is positioned at the southern end of the Barrier Reef just off Bundaberg and has its own 600m airstrip, which is unique." "The coral and marine life around the island are also the best going because the coral bleaching has not yet affected the area and we don't have any marine stingers." Famous for its 40-strong manta ray population, the island is also a popular hangout for migrating humpback whales that are currently making their way north. "It is an exciting time for everybody involved.
"We don't plan to transform the resort into a five-star expensive option. What we want to do is just uphold the great reputation it already has and attract more visitors to the island," he said. The handover from Mr Whittaker, a septuagenarian who founded Queensland's Sunstate Airlines and also owns Great Keppel Island, was seen as a natural progression after Mr Gash entered negotiations late in 2004. "We have been operating the flights to the island for quite a while now and have had a good relationship with the owner," he said. Mr Gash said the 20-year-old,150 bed Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort was a positive addition to the business, which had a flying fleet of seven aircraft. The company conducts executive charter operations, freight and cargo, parachute specialised operation, float landing-gear training and government charter. Air and accommodation packages will be available.
Lady Elliot Island perfectly positioned at the southerly end of the Great Barrier Reef
Pilot Peter Gash who, along with his wife Julie, is a new co-lessee of Lady Elliot Island