Dunk and disorderly: a tropical paradise lost

FOR a century Dunk Island has been synonymous with island holidays in Australia. Now a wasteland of razed coconut palms, gutted facilities, and sand drifts, it is symbolic of the destruction wrought by cyclone Yasi.

Four kilometres off north Queensland between Townsville and Cairns, Dunk Island is the forgotten ground zero of the category five cyclone that struck last month.

Yasi snapped steel, smashed glass, tore fans, blew out roofs, sheared rainforest, pummelled jetties and dumped sand everywhere when it ripped through the island at midnight before smashing into the mainland.

''You couldn't believe the extent of the damage,'' Cassowary Coast mayor Bill Shannon told The Sun-Herald. ''Tully Heads, Hull Heads and the town of Tully were very seriously damaged, but the damage to Dunk Island is another step up again. It really is absolutely horrendous.''

The pool is now a beach with a puddle, exercise bikes sit in dunes and luxury apartments look as though they have been trashed by a rock star.

Dunk Island operator Hideaway Resorts is appealing to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Anna Bligh to help restore paradise.

It could cost as much as $100 million to rebuild Dunk, as every structure on the island is damaged and much of the vegetation is dead.

Hideaway Resorts will not speculate publicly about the final repair bill, as insurance assessors are still taking stock of the damage.

''It's significant,'' chief executive Mark Campbell said.

Dunk Island would not welcome tourists again until spring at the earliest, missing out on peak season.

Mr Campbell arrived on the island the morning after the cyclone to a devastating sight. ''A lot of the focus has been on the mainland. We're a little bit forgotten,'' he said.

As a private property, Dunk Island has had to make do without the assistance of the army or neighbourhood volunteers. It has retained 40 of its 130 staff to help clean up and prepare accommodation for builders.

In comparison, the clean-up on the mainland is three-quarters complete. Cassowary Coast council has doubled the number of dumps and is doing 30,000 pick-ups of cyclone rubbish. Power has been restored and roads reopened.

To quicken the rebuilding on Dunk Island, Hideaway Resorts is asking all levels of government to speed up planning approvals and is seeking financial assistance including grants, loans and rates relief.

''The frustrating thing is everything takes time and time is not necessarily what we have,'' Mr Campbell said.

The company hopes there will be marketing dollars left for when the resort finally reopens. Politicians have promised help, but Mr Campbell is anxious to ensure they deliver. This did not always happen after cyclone Larry in 2006.

''We want to ensure all the offers of goodwill and assistance don't get drained out over time,'' he said. ''A hell of a lot of promises were made around Larry and not all of them came true. We want the goodwill to translate into tangible assistance.''