Aerial View of Heron Island.
Aerial View of Heron Island. Brenda Strong

Water crisis leads to complaints

INTERNATIONAL hospitality company Delaware North Group will internally investigate claims of serious mismanagement at its Heron Island resort after a number of complaints were lodged with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Claims made against the company by former employees consist of staff being forced to work in unsanitary conditions, which include cooking with dirty pots, serving meals to guests on plastic plates and massaging guests who hadn't showered in days.

Former spa therapist Michael Vandenberg said he left the island, located in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, because he didn't feel comfortable working under the conditions.

"I couldn't shower for four days," Mr Vandenberg said.

"It's just not acceptable that you can't wash yourself. Especially when you're working five to six days straight and you haven't got clean uniforms, you can't do any washing of your clothes and you're touching bodies constantly in the massage."

Another former Heron Island Resort employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was unacceptable management still allowed guests to book accommodation at the $600-a-night resort, while they were running low on water.

"I would never pay $600 to never shower on my holiday," the former employee said.

"They should let people evacuate and (then) fix the problem, instead of getting people to go there."

The internal investigation comes a month after the tropical resort scrambled to repair a broken desalination pump, which left staff and guests without running drinking water for seven days.

In the week beginning June 25, guests and staff were notified of the desalination pump problem and were told the issue would be resolved in one week.

At the time a Heron Island spokesperson said staff and guests were provided with unlimited amounts of bottled water.

But Mr Vandenberg claimed staff were restricted to two 1.5 litre bottles of water during the crisis, which led him to import his own bottled water in bulk from Gladstone.

On July 2, a Heron Island Resort spokesperson contacted The Observer to confirm there had been a delay in repairing the desalination pump and said the problem was expected to be solved in the coming weeks.

Former employees confirmed guests were provided with the opportunity to use a shower on Monday, July 2 at the dive shop between the hours of 4-9pm and that running toilet water was available.

In a statement made by Delaware North Group, a spokesperson said the company had been in consultation with a number of regulatory authorities during the desalination plant malfunction and ensured clean drinking water was available for drinking and food preparation.

Gladstone Regional Council's manager of regulatory services Brooke Saunders said the council was not made aware of any food and public health issues occurring on the island.

'"Council was aware that problems had arisen with the desalination plant on the island and that water was being transported from the mainland by approved water carriers," Ms Saunders said.

Ms Saunders said the council was scheduling inspections of all food businesses on islands within the Gladstone region and would do a full inspection of the site in the near future.

The council is responsible for licensing the food businesses at Heron Island under provisions of the Food Act 2006.

GAPDL CEO Glenn Churchill said new management had since commenced on the island.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued Delaware North with a notice on July 17, 2012.

Delaware North Group

DELAWARE North Group has launched an internal investigation over claims of unsanitary and unsafe working conditions at the company's Heron Island Resort.

On Thursday corporate communications manager Judith Meadows issued the following statement:

"We have been in consultation with a number of regulatory authorities during the desalination plant malfunction, so as to ensure provision for clean and certified water were (sic) always available for drinking and food preparation. In accordance with our corporate standards and recommendation of regulatory authorities, a full internal review of the incident has occurred and all risk and response plans updated to reflect learning and best practice, which includes the complete rebuilding of the facility to mitigate any future recurrence."
 



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