Minister defies Planning Commission advice to knock back KI timber port: SA-BEST

11 August 2021

SA-BEST today demanded the Planning Minister, Vickie Chapman, reveal what advice she followed to knock back a $40 million deep sea port on Kangaroo Island. 

SA-BEST MLC and Agriculture spokesman, Frank Pangallo, today revealed the State Planning Commission – in its comprehensive 238-page assessment report on the proposal – concluded the project was justified. 

The Commission states: “The Assessment Report concludes that the proposal is justified as it provides an opportunity for the plantation timber on Kangaroo Island to be removed and a second rotation to be commenced. Without a practical way to remove the timber from the island, the financial benefit of the timber product would otherwise remain ‘locked up’ with no economically viable means of taking the product to market.” 

Frank said: “Like me, many business leaders on the Island are astounded by the Minister’s decision and I urge her to release the advice she used to knock back this crucial project – particularly given the State Planning Commission’s recommendation that the project should go ahead. 

“It’s no secret the Minister has generational, long-standing family, personal and financial interests on the Island – and I appreciate her passion for the place where she was raised. 

“But her decision also begs the question – why have a Planning Commission in the first place go to such forensic detail assessing a project and making recommendations to the government, only to have the government totally ignore that expert advice and outright reject the project. 

“The Minister needs to explain why she ignored her own expert advice from the State Planning Commission that the project should get provisional approval, subject to conditions. 

“With all respect, the Minister isn't an expert on this matter and one wonders what else motivated her to knock it on the head. 

“This is an appalling call by the Minister as it has cost the island's economy jobs and much needed revenue. 

“It will also now create heavy vehicle hazards and noise nuisance on main roads into Kingscote and American River because the saw logs will now have to be ferried through those towns. 

“There's also the likelihood foreshore tourism development at Kingscote could be shelved. 

“The Minister has sent a disturbing message to potential investors that they still run the risk of not getting major projects approved despite spending a fortune on reports and applications – and having government agencies approving such projects. 

“This project was being privately funded with no taxpayer support required. 

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 Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers (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. 

“I suspect this decision was a political one - not a rational economic one based on five years and millions of dollars spent on various reports,” Frank said. 

“Some time ago I suspected Ms Chapman would knock the project on the head because of pressure being exerted by a minority element in the KI community - including the mayor Michael Pengilly who lives next door to the proposed development and feared log-laden trucks driving past his place,” he said. 

“He has a conflict of interest and needs to declare it each time he addresses the subject. 

“As for concerns the project would impact tourism and the environment, the EIS shows it would be minimal in the least - but the risks were manageable given they met certain conditions, something clearly stated in the report. 

“As a matter of transparency, the Minister has a responsibility to release the advice she received that flies in the face of the recommendations of the State Planning Commission which convinced her to reject the project, as well as an independent report commissioned by the government. 

“Ms Chapman must explain what other factors influenced her decision because those she put up have been answered by her own government experts and independent reports. 

“On one hand, the Marshall Government talks about creating jobs - especially in our regions – and assisting businesses grow their businesses, but then on a whim kills off 200 jobs, many more indirect jobs and tens of millions of dollars into the KI economy each year. 

“The Minister’s decision also places in doubt the future of plantation timber operations on KI. 

“It's just another bad decision by a government that is avoiding tough decisions six months out from an election.”

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