Kangaroo Island koalas facing grim future following State Government’s decision to knock back deep sea port, warns SA-BEST

26 August 2021

Hundreds – possibly thousands – of koalas on Kangaroos Island are in danger following the State Government’s illogical decision to knock back a $40 million deep-sea port on the island, SA-BEST warned today. 

SA-BEST MLC and Regional Development spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, said today the Planning Minister, Vickie Chapman, needed to explain what will happen to the koalas and whether their plight was even considered when she blocked the major infrastructure project – against the expert advice and recommendations of the State Planning Commission and a separate independent report – earlier this month. 

And he also called on the Premier, Steven Marshall, to remove Ms Chapman from the Planning portfolio and urgently review her decision. 

Frank today detailed the grim future facing the koalas after it was revealed the proponent of the port – Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers (KIPT) – has no other option but to return its large acreage of blue gum plantations to agriculture land following the State Government’s shock decision. 

That means clearing hundreds of acres of mature gum trees - the habitat of hundreds, possibly thousands - of koalas. 

As part of its plan, KIPT has been told by National Parks and Wildlife Services South Australia it must come up with a koala management plan, including where the koalas are currently located and where it plans to relocate them. 

“The Minister’s decision to knock back the port has the potential to be an international public relations tourism disaster for the Island,” Frank said. 

“Ms Chapman’s illogical decision has the potential to result in thousands of these universally-adored national emblems starving to death or being euthanised,” he said. 

“The Minister needs to declare whether the future of these koalas formed part of her deliberations to knock back the port – and whether Cabinet was consulted as part of that decision. 

“There is growing concern on the Island – and among wildlife experts – that there isn’t room on the Island to relocate thousands of koalas. 

“It’s an unfolding disaster that needs immediate answers from the Minister.” 

Frank today reiterated his calls for Ms Chapman to reveal what advice she followed to knock back the project – particularly after the State Planning Commission – in its comprehensive 238-page assessment report on the proposal – concluded the project was justified. 

He said the fallout of Ms Chapman decision included killing off: 

  • a lucrative forestry industry that would have provided hundreds of jobs and injected millions of dollars into the economy for decades; 
  • additional investment opportunities on the island - including a chipping plant and power generator; 
  • incentives for the expansion of associated industries, like transport and clearing; 
  • further tourism opportunities with cruise ships having a better place to offload passengers; 
  • hope the existing timber can be transported off the island efficiently and economically, which now may result in excellent quality timber having to be torched every single day in winter thus creating an environmental pollution hazard; and 
  • further investment interest in Kangaroo Island and South Australia. 

Earlier this year, Frank requested Ms Chapman - a sixth-generation landholder and farmer on the island - recuse herself from the decision-making process around the deep-sea wharf due to her strong ties. 

Under the proposal assessed by the State Planning Commission, ASX-listed KIPT planned to build a $40m seaport at Smith Bay, on KI’s north coast, creating much-needed jobs and economic boost for the Island. 

The government's own independent report recommended Smith Bay as the best location for a deep-water port. 

Frank said he was concerned by the government’s apparent backflip on the proposal after Ms Chapman took over the Planning portfolio from former Minister, Stephan Knoll - following his resignation - amid claims he was about the approve the port. 

“The Minister’s appalling call - supported by a Mayor who had a major conflict of interest because his property was located adjacent the proposed wharf - has cost the Island's economy jobs and much-needed revenue,” Frank said. 

“It’s a woeful decision not based on facts that will impact the Island for generations,” he said.

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