Friends of Park members on Kangaroo Island are passionate and committed folk. Each month they’ll travel 100 kilometres across the Island to volunteer their services.
They go out in all sorts of weather, up early and staying late, taking on sometimes tiring and unpleasant tasks.
They use their skills to run events, monitor threatened species, eradicate weeds, plant trees, clean up beaches and produce information brochures.
They give their time and resources willingly because they want to help care for and protect the natural and historic environment of KI’s National Parks.
So when members of Friends of Parks KI Western Districts (FOPKIWD) observe a threat to Flinders Chase National Park they become very concerned.
They see a threat in the proposal by the Australian Walking Company (AWC) to build luxury accommodation for the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail as described in The Islander.
Each site of nine buildings plus rainwater tanks is located in pristine coastal areas some distance from the existing KIWT campsites. There will be considerable destruction of native habitat for the seven kilometres of spur trail and three kilometres of road needed to construct and service these sites.
“Why does the accommodation need to be located so far from the existing trail and road access, and outside the development zones listed in the Management Plan of the Park?” asks Colin Wilson, Vice-President of the group.
“Why would a company that prides itself on its environmental credentials and whose website states their values as ‘Providing sensitive and appropriate small-scale eco-development’ want to clear more native vegetation than is absolutely necessary?”
Adding to the Friends’ concerns about vegetation clearance and the visual intrusion of buildings in areas with wilderness values are their worries about the further spread of pest plants and diseases.
At their last working bee monitoring threatened shore-birds and removing rubbish on Maupertuis Beach members discovered blue pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) spreading along the sides of the trail. It can cause contact dermatitis in humans and its seeds are toxic to birds. Feral cats are also known to utilise roads and tracks to colonise remote areas.
For over 20 years FOPKIWD members have worked closely with Department of Environment staff in caring for the park, with the Department formally recognising their contribution at a ceremony at Flinders Chase last year.
Several members have given more than 10 years service. The Friends group has won numerous awards from the Department and KI Council for its achievements.
Members have been enthusiastically promoting and volunteering for next year’s 100th anniversary of Flinders Chase National Park. But now they are worried and want to let the KI community know of their concerns.
AWC only lodged its development proposal with the State Commission Assessment Panel two weeks ago yet it is already advertising its Kangaroo Island Lodge Walk on its website for commencement in October next year, assuming that it will sail through the assessment process.
As a Category 1 Development there is no requirement for community consultation. So it looks like those opposed to this development will have to take other action.
“It’s not easy to make a fuss and protest” said Friends of Parks volunteer Bev Maxwell. “But if we don’t, what area of park wilderness will be threatened next?
Each new development weakens the integrity and purpose of the National Park as a place for the protection and conservation of native plants and animals. Enough is enough! No more chopping up the Chase!”