So what’s this idea of letting private developers into Flinders Chase all about? And what will it mean to have two luxury lodges right on the coast of our most important national park?
There’s a host of issues here. Most obviously, the impact of lodges and roads on the natural environment.
Then there’s the wobbly logic of spending millions on a walking trail promoting a wilderness experience and then plonking rows of distinctly non-wilderness buildings in the same space.
Not to mention the ethical question of taking unspoilt public places – sites we’re all free to enjoy - and then giving them away to businessmen who only want to cater for the wealthy few.
But there’s also another community asset at risk in this proposal – a slice of our island history.
When I think of the spectacular Flinders Chase coastline, those ragged shores of Maupertuis Bay and Sanderson Bay, I also think of all the people who have worked and walked here.
People like the redoubtable bushman and local parish priest Fr Patrick Kelly. In the 1970s he walked the entire island coastline, rejoicing in the wild freedom of it all.
Or the late Chris Baxter, ‘birdo’ extraordinaire, who roamed these shores throughout his life, communing with nature and sharing his hard-won knowledge and passion for living things.
Plus all the other farming, ranger and lighthouse families out west who grew up with Flinders Chase as their backyard, and whose memories are bound to a footloose experience of place.
And I also think of young David Kilpatrick, one of only four survivors from the 1899 wreck of the Loch Sloy. He died on land of his injuries a few days later.
To visit his hauntingly remote gravesite, atop the cliffs between Rocky River and Sandy Creek, is a moving experience shared by many islanders and others, including visits by the KI Walking Club.
This same vicinity also happens to be one of the prime coastal sites being proposed by the developers for a luxury lodge.
I have no doubt David’s grave will be protected. But the sanctity of this site will never be the same.
That goes for this whole sweep of coastline in the south-west; its wild character risks being forever compromised.
And with it we lose the chance to truly follow in the footsteps and honour the memory of those who went before - whether its Fr Kelly, David Kilpatrick or some unsung family member who simply knew and loved those shores on their own terms - as nature intended. – Quentin Chester