Earlier this month the SA Environment Minister David Speirs announced that he was preparing to commence negotiations with Kangaroo Island Links to lease the Crown land necessary to build its links-style golf course at Pelican Lagoon.
Kangaroo Island Links director Jack Dahan described the decision as “an important step in the planning process”, but was quick to note that various planning conditions were still outstanding.
“As Kangaroo Islanders are aware, our Development Authorisation included a number of conditions that we are still working through,” Mr Dahan said.
“These include important management plans to guide water and golf course construction, and also to protect and preserve the unique flora and fauna that make the island so special.”
Since the golf resort was first approved in 2016, several adjustments have been made to the Master Plan. The original golf course included six holes within the crown reserve, and the new layout has more holes within this crown land area, he said.
“This was done to not only increase the quality of the finished golf course, but to minimise impacts elsewhere across the property,” Mr Dahan said.
“The current layout will require significantly less earthworks to construct than the previous version, and will be able to better manage invasive weeds like boxthorn.
“Our ecologists have stated that removing and managing this boxthorn would ‘benefit local vegetation as it (African boxthorn) is expected to invade further into high quality coastal vegetation’ over time.
“Critically, a 40-hectare tract of mallee woodland previously earmarked for subdivision has also been protected, by moving that component of the development out of the trees.”
Mr Dahan said the project itself would generate a significant environmental benefit for the area and robust planning conditions protect crucial elements like cultural heritage and local flora/fauna.
Protections would be addressed via management plans that required the approval of relevant Department of Environment and Water and Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure agencies, he said.
“It’s important to note, that while six holes will impact the coastal sand dunes the majority of the course will be built upon degraded farming ground,” he said.
“For a century this land was used for sheep grazing and were such a land use to re-emerge it would be unlikely to benefit coastal conservation to the same degree as a professionally managed golf course.
“As some will be aware, the game of golf was born along the coastline and most of its elite courses enjoy a seaside setting.
“We believe the Kangaroo Island site to be one of the world’s best. The mix of stunning cliffs, ocean views, abundant wildlife, beautiful golf holes and attractive vegetation will prove popular with the travelling golfer.
“Our intention is to build a pure links course, that is to say a course that sits lightly on the land with minimal disturbance needed to build the holes and native vegetation enhanced to improve the landscape.
“It’s important to point out that at present there is limited public access to the coastline in question. The area includes sections that are impassable owing to the presence of thick boxthorn, and the fact that access is generally only possible through private land parcels.
“Our golf course will be fully public at all times, as will the clubhouse, restaurant, hotel and golf practice areas, for example family friendly putting green.
“Non-golfers will be as welcome to use the facilities and enjoy the setting as golfers. A walking track will be built through the course that could potentially tie into a future Kangaroo Island coastal walking trail.
“Aside from cycling, golf is the most popular active pastime in Australia, with 1.2 million participants. Worldwide more than 50 million people play golf.
“Far from a game played exclusively by a few elite, golf on Kangaroo Island will attract all manner of visitors; from juniors through to seniors, men and women, Australians and foreigners.
“The vast majority of golfers walk when they play the game, and are almost certain to extend their stay and experience wonders elsewhere on the island.
“We believe that significant economic benefits will flow to businesses on KI, from the arrival each year of approximately 20,000 fit and active golfers.
“While we understand that some would prefer we not construct a course on Kangaroo Island, we appreciate the tremendous support received by so many locals over the past few years.
“Unfortunately South Australia has a poor history of modern golf development and our goal is not just to build any old golf course – but to create a world-class icon.
“The beauty of golf travel is that many of the world’s best courses are a 100, or more, years old. Our aim is to similarly leave behind a legacy for Kangaroo Island, and build a golf course capable of attracting visitors for years and decades to come.
“As with our links course on King Island in Tasmania at Cape Wickham, we look forward to working with government agencies to complete the outstanding planning work and to then transforming environmentally and economically unproductive land into a magnificent attraction for golfers and non-golfers alike.”