An award-winning eco lodge in Queensland, which pioneered an indigenous employment program, is under threat of receivership as it struggles to pay back loans and maintain its “Aboriginal Champions” program.
The Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa won the 2012 “World’s Leading Eco Resort and Spa” at the World Travel Awards, in what was heralded at the time as a boost for Queensland tourism, but is now at the hands of National Australia Bank receivers who may be considering a fire sale.
Lodge owner Terry Maloney told SmartCompany he had heard nothing official from NAB, but confirmed the bank had been threatening receivership for some time.
Maloney also said about $1.5 million will cover the company’s debts and his family home.
Maloney sent a letter to NAB chief executive Cameron Clyne last Monday appealing for the bank to consider taking on board its indigenous program as part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility programs – but confirmed his offer was rejected.
Maloney says this would be “mutually beneficial” for both parties and allow Maloney to focus on running the lodge and paying back the debts.
The program has assisted more than 100 local indigenous people over the past 15 years with long-term employment, housing and tertiary education.
“This would allow them to implement a positive action program and we could then grow our business. We’ve been funding the program ourselves and it is ready to be rolled out around Australia,” Maloney says.
Maloney says he has approached the government for funding for the indigenous program, but has been unsuccessful.
SmartCompany contacted Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and the Queensland Minister for Tourism and Small Business Jann Stuckey but neither were available to respond prior to publication.
Maloney says he “received a response from NAB on Thursday last week saying they would not be taking on the indigenous plan.”
A NAB spokesperson told SmartCompany NAB was unable to comment because of customer confidentiality.
Juan Walker, a Kuku Yalanji local and Maloney’s son-in-law, started in the program when he was 19 and has remained employed at the lodge for the past 10 years. He has now gone on to also start his own tourism company, Walkabout Adventures.
The lodge has been awarded over 50 national and international awards and following its appointment as the world’s best eco resort and spa, it was praised by the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Stuckey for its effort in boosting Queensland tourism.