Friends of Parks volunteers are on strike in protest over the decision to build luxury, private accommodation villages in wild, unspoiled parts of Flinders Chase National Park, one of South Australia’s most famous and well-loved parks.
They have also withdrawn from their major involvement in organizing this year’s 100th anniversary of the Chase.
The accommodation villages each comprising nine or 10 buildings plus infrastructure are planned for two untouched coastal locations, Sandy Beach and Sanderson Bay.
Friends of Parks representatives recently visited the sites were the Australian Walking Company is proposing to build the accommodation.
These sites had already been marked out with wooden pegs.
The Sandy Beach development will extend across nearly 200 m of headland in full view of the beach, a Friends spokesperson said.
Sandy Beach was one of only two beaches in the park easily accessible to the public via a short walking track, but it retained a wild, remote aspect with no sign of any human disturbance, the Friends say.
An additional 3 km of road would need to be bulldozed and 7km of walking track built through sensitive, pristine areas to gain access to and service the sites, according to the group.
The Friends allege the Department of Environment and Water (DEW) has endorsed the proposal by the Australian Walking Company to develop these building complexes, even though their locations are not listed as development zones within the Flinders Chase National Park Management Plan Amendment of 2017.
The company is already advertising for bookings before any approvals have been given.
The decision to withdraw their labour was a difficult one for the committed volunteers of Friends of Parks KI Western Districts (FoPKIWD), who have worked closely with Department of Environment staff for more than 20 years in caring for the park.
The volunteers control weeds, revegetate degraded areas, build and maintain walking trails, assist with research into threatened plants and animals, produce educational materials and much more.
FoPKIWD president Rick Andrews explained the reasons for the group going on strike.
“We volunteer our time and resources willingly to help care for and preserve the natural and historic values of Kangaroo Island’s National Parks for everyone,” Mr Andrews said.
“By allowing this private development the department has abandoned its own responsibility to do the same. It’s our belief in the importance of national parks and conserving wild places for future generations that has led us to take this stand.
“It’s the thin edge of the wedge. We’ve seen what’s happened in Tasmania, NSW and Queensland and now it’s happening here.
“The group is very concerned that this private development in Flinders Chase National Park will establish a precedent and the public will have no say in future developments in other parks.”
An information session for Kangaroo Island residents was held only after the development proposal had been submitted to the State Commission Assessment Panel. There was no process for the community to express its views, he said.
“FoPKIWD calls on the members of the state’s other 121 Friends of Parks groups and the wider community to send the State Government a clear message that National Parks must not be sold out to private developers,” Mr Andrews said.
“It’s Flinders Chase this time. Which park will it be next?”
The Islander plans to get an update on what mechanism the State Government is using to approve the AWC proposal.
It also plans to gauge reaction to the decision approve the development and the Friends’ strike from AWC, State and Federal members, local Government and the founder of the SA Friends of Parks.