Environmentalists have slammed the decision to allow sensitive coastal land to be leased to the developers of the proposed KI Link golf resort.
SA Environment Minister David Speirs last Tuesday made the announcement that he would to retain a 50-metre-wide waterfront coastal reserve to allow ongoing public access to the clifftop, and negotiate a lease with golf course developer for the non-waterfront sections of the land.
But conservationists say the sensitive dune area behind the 50m waterfront strip is set to be destroyed by bulldozers. Grass fairways that require water, fertiliser and pest eradication are much worse than a few boxthorn bushes
KI Eco-Action group representative Bob Huxtable said leasing and selling were of little difference, considering what has happened with the leasehold of coastal shacks.
“The Minister has approved leasing coastal land to the developer, minus 50 metres, which by the government’s own admission, is in many places too dangerous for public access,” Mr Huxtable said.
“This whole fiasco is now possible by a sleight of hand in an Act promulgated in April 2017 which permits lease or sale of coastal Crown land when part of that land is kept in public hands.”
Mr Huxtable said documents secured under the Freedom of Information Act proved the Department of Environment since July 2017 had been talking to developers and the the minister had provided in principle approval for the direct disposal of four parcels of Crown Land at market value.
But that back in 2016, emails reveal the Government was worried about the impact of the development on the sensitive coastal dune area.
Others have welcomed the chance for the project to go ahead. A poll on The Islander’s initial story breaking the news of the minister’s decision was 70 per cent in favour of the proposed lease arrangements.
Property developer and restaurant owner Caj Amadio welcomed the news from the minister and said Kangaroo Island needed big projects such as KI Links to prosper.
Mr Amadio said the golf resort would attract people from all over the world and add to the success of new Kangaroo Island airport.
He said the proponents had experience in building golf courses on coastal land all over the world. He had faith that KI Links would nurture the environment and enhance the landscape, giving greater access to that that coastal area for not only golfers but also for the general public public to enjoy the stunning views.
Mr Amadio said it was incorrect for opponents to say that previous proposals did not extend onto Crown land.
The coastal land being sought for the proposal was degraded and would benefit from the development, he said.
Scientist opposed to plan
Kangaroo Island resident Dr Richard Glatz is principal scientist and founder of D’Estrees Entomology & Science Service.
Dr Glatz was also disappointed with the minister’s decision and said if the golf course was going to be built on crown conservation land, it made no difference if it was sold or leased.
“The Minster has not acknowledged the main concern arising from the public consultation, which was very clear; we don’t want a golf course built over Kangaroo Island’s Crown Coastal Reserve, waterfront or otherwise,” he said
“The Minister has used a legislative trick to overturn Ian Hunter’s decision, which clearly recognised this concern of the community, various organisations, and scientists.
“The only significant effect of this latest decision is to rezone waterfront land so two more crown land parcels can be developed without consultation.
“We already owned the 50m strip and had access, so this is nothing new, although the Minister seems to be suggesting this is his gift to us.
“The golf course hardly needs any adjustment which was clearly the goal of the government. The natural ecology of that land will be largely destroyed.
“Turf grass is only capable of supporting a few introduced insects, some ants, wallabies and kangaroos.
“Scientifically and ecologically it makes no sense to remove boxthorns if a much larger area is planted to a worse weed, invasive turf grass.
“Claiming any victory through boxthorn removal on the crown land shows a poor understanding of ecology.
“You cannot mitigate ecological damage from replacing complex ecology with grass, through the use of management plans, as the Minister appears to be suggesting.
“This development was only properly assessed when on the adjoining lower quality, freehold land.
“The golf course could have been up and running if the developers and government had gone ahead with the consulted development approved on the freehold land.
“The decision to involve crown conservation land has held up the development for several years, risked it being abandoned, and made it unpopular and inappropriate with regard to natural resource management.
“It should be noted that numerous scientific, cultural and community organisations made their opposition to the use of crown land clear to the government through YourSay and privately.
“These organisations represent many thousands of people, not just the 780 individuals who pressed send on their submissions.
“As an ecological and agricultural scientist it feels like a kick in the guts from a department I continue to work with, as I know it is for others who actually understand the unique and astounding natural history of KI, and the true economic and scientific value of these ancient natural systems.
“It is concerning to have an Environment Minister who speaks often of the economy and tourism but not of the ecology, biodiversity or natural heritage that underpins it. It is also sadly ironic that a Minister who makes so much of protecting the coast, would in an early decision, sanction more damage to KI’s ecologically valuable coastline than for many years previously.
“What this decision has done is to set a very low bar for development of KI’s natural areas.
“30 jobs and 14 million of investment, which I wouldn’t have thought would even cover the buildings, and the government falls over itself to provide, against overwhelming public opposition, equal to 2.5 km of public coastline to be permanently damaged with regard to the purpose it was established, which is conservation.
“The message to developers is “Come and develop KI crown land, it’s cheap on KI”.
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