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Flinders Chase. No to More Visitors? Why?

The campaign against the Australian Walking Company’s proposal to build eco-friendly lodges at two locations on the KI Wilderness Trail is a perfect example of the dog in the manger negativity that hurls itself at every new project on Kangaroo Island.

Some of the arguments are beyond ludicrous. One was: A completely different company built some completely different buildings somewhere completely different, and they are ugly, so we all need to unite in opposing this project. Um.. OK.

The lodges will not be visible from the main track. The argument that they might be visible from part of the beach below reminds me of the story of the elderly woman who rang police to complain about her neighbour exposing himself. Although this happened at night, and he was in his own home, the woman insisted he was doing it deliberately to upset her. An officer called and looked through her window as directed. “His curtains are closed. I can’t see a thing.” “Of course not,” said the woman “you have to stand on the cupboard.”

Or there is the theory that this is the “thin edge of the wedge” (time to come up with some new clichés, people) and that the park will be ruined by private development. On the contrary, AWC have a strong interest in maintaining the wild beauty of the park – that is why people come.

This project will bring new people to the island, and create thirty full-time equivalent jobs. Those opposed perhaps need to remember the park is not their private playground. It belongs to all Australians, and new facilities constructed at no cost to the tax-payer which give visitors more choices make it more accessible to ordinary Australians, not less.

If you don’t want to stay at the new lodges, that’s fine. You don’t have to. Just keep walking. Why try to spoil it for others?

Further thoughts on this, which may appear in print over the next few days:

Unlike ninety percent of those who gathered at Parliament House on Wednesday to protest the Australian Walking Company’s proposed eco-friendly accommodation on Kangaroo Island, I live and work on the Island.

The proposed development is not about “privatising the park,” as was claimed. It does not “set a dangerous precedent,” it will not “reduce visitor access to the park.”

Private investment in National parks around Australia is an important contributor to meeting the need for infrastructure and facilities for visitors. Whether for cafes, accommodation, or ski facilities, private investment improves accessibility and user friendliness. The planned new Falls to Mt Hotham wilderness trail, for example, specifically includes provision for accommodation and other amenities along the trail to be constructed with a mix of public and private funding.

Private investment means improved facilities without the need for additional tax-payer funds, and at the same time provides additional income to parks for conservation and maintenance.

Flinders Chase is some 320,000 hectares in size. The proposed development will occupy about 1 hectare (approximately half a hectare at each site). The lodges will not be visible from the main track, nor interfere with anyone’s view or movement along the track.

AWC have a history of building and managing high quality, eco-friendly accommodation along some of Australia’s premier trails. They responded to a state government call for expressions of interest in providing such accommodation on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail with a proposal to spend some $4 million on the Island, and to create thirty FTE jobs.

The new accommodation will enhance the accessibility of the Trail, for example for older or disabled people who may prefer to walk in a group or with a guide, and for whom camping is not an option.

I am sure most of those who turned up to protest as instructed thought they were doing a good thing. But we do not need a low-information rent-a-crowd to tell us, nor to tell politicians on our behalf, what development is appropriate for Kangaroo Island.