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Small business owner Karla (surname
withheld) has devoted much of the
past 18 years to living in the cosy
beachside town of Airlie Beach, which
frames the sparkling Whitsundays and its
74 islands – arguably the supermodels of
numerous Queensland tourism marketing
campaigns. While many people,
particularly backpackers, view Airlie
Beach as a transient party destination,
there’s a host of loyal residents who see
more to the tiny town – which infamously
jokes it’s a “drinking town with a sailing
problem” – than initially meets the eye.
Karla, 43, bought her first business on
Daydream Island in 1996 and sold it in
1999 to “find love, to travel and sail around
This adventurous streak led her in
the same direction of many Australians
and sailors, first to Thailand “for R&R”
before she landed in Antibes in the south
It was here, with the Whitsundays’
famous trade winds blowing her in the
right direction, that she was offered a job
on her third day in the uber glamorous
spot on a 45-metre super yacht,
working as a cook, chief stewardess
“I had the best 10 years of my life,”
“I was working on cruising race boats for
years and also worked on motor yachts.
I freelanced for seven years and met a
captain and we ran yachts together for
three and a half years.”
But like most young Australians in
Europe, Karla was eventually lured
back Down Under where she bought
“I didn’t want to be in hospitality serving
people anymore as I was approaching 40
and it was time to come and live my own
life again and do what I loved,” she says.
“In 2006 I bought a block of land in Airlie
TURNING A LOSS
Despite her block of land falling in value by $120,000,
an Airlie Beach investor has a plan to recoup the lost
money on her investment.
Beach online through a yachty friend of
mine who had also come home and who I
trusted. The prices were still at the peak
at the time but I was unaware they would
Karla also bought a townhouse in Jubilee
Pocket so she could be close to her block
of land when it came time to build.
The townhouse, for which she paid
$296,000, is currently worth between
$245,000 and $255,000. But it’s the land,
for which she paid $250,000, which has
experienced the most price fluctuation.
Since buying the 734-square-metre
block in 2006, it has dropped by $120,000
“Before investing in property I invested
in cattle on our family farm so these were
the first two properties that I bought as I
had travelled for 10 years,” she says.
“When I bought the block of land in
2006 I paid far too much for it as they
had covenants on the block which are
“At present the land has dropped
$120,000 in price which is a shame as it’s
in a nice cul-de-sac in Jubilee Pocket with
a nice view.”
But all those years sailing have taught
Karla a few important life skills. Such as
optimism and resilience.
She’s hoping to start building on the
steep, 19-degree angle block in the first
quarter of 2014 and is exploring her
options for a builder.
“I’m having a three-bedroom house built
with a rumpus room and big open area
downstairs which I may decide to convert
into a granny flat and try to recoup some
costs by renting it out.”
Due to the current economic slump in
regional areas of Queensland, costs of
building homes locally remain high. API
has been told by a number of sources in
the Whitsundays that several homeowners
are looking further afield, to metropolitan
centres such as Brisbane, where the price
of building a home and shipping it north
can save them as much as $100,000.
Master Builders director of housing
policy Paul Bidwell says regional
Queensland has traditionally been more
expensive in which to build due to freight
and economy-of-scale issues.
“There’s no doubt that the mining boom
has exacerbated that and when places
like Mackay were hot 12 months ago, it’s
expensive to build,” he said.
But Bidwell says the worm recently
turned and building prices have started to
drop in regional Queensland.
“It’s always going to cost those living
in regional areas of Queensland more to
build but what’s changed is builders are
going to be much more competitive with
chasing work,” he says.
A new report published by Master
Builders Queensland in mid-November
indicates some positivity may be creeping
back into the residential building sector
after a “tough” 2012/13.
The building industry outlook report
indicates the state’s residential
construction sector is positive and will
ride off the back of major liquefied natural
gas projects currently under construction
which will shift to production.
Exports from these major gas projects
are expected to bolster economic
performance around the state, boosting
Like most people who possess a sailing
streak, Karla remains the eternal optimist,
with one eye always on the horizon.
“The overall view in the area is that the
property market is slowly improving here,”
“Major infrastructure work on the main
street – which impacted on tourism and
businesses for 18 months – has just been
finished and we’re starting to see some
great changes again.
“I wouldn’t be investing in Airlie Beach
if I didn’t love it and didn’t believe in it.
It’s a great town with great people and
there are positive things ahead.” API
The building site, on the left
KARLA \\ MY SHORT STORY
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