Third Friends group downs tools over Flinders Chase AWC development

CONCERNED FRIENDS: Friends of Parks KI Western Districts remove rubbish from Sanderson Beach the site of one of the proposed AWC building complexes. File photo
CONCERNED FRIENDS: Friends of Parks KI Western Districts remove rubbish from Sanderson Beach the site of one of the proposed AWC building complexes. File photo

All three volunteer Friends of Parks groups on Kangaroo Island are now on strike in protest against the decision of the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) to support the Australian Walking Company's plans to build accommodation villages on prominent coastal sites away from the KI Wilderness Trail.

Members of Friends of Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park have joined Friends of Parks KI Western Districts and Friends of Dudley Peninsula Parks members in withdrawing from the 100th anniversary of Flinders Chase celebrations and volunteering activities on Kangaroo Island's parks and reserves.

Their decision to withdraw from their regular working bees means that there are now no Friends of Parks volunteers carrying out their regular tasks such as weed management, revegetation, plant and animal surveys and hosting education events in KI's National Parks and reserves.

Like members from the other two groups, the decision to withdraw their labour was not an easy one for volunteers. Friends of Cape Gantheaume celebrated its 20th birthday in 2017.

Over the years it has undertaken many projects in parks and reserves including at Cape Gantheaume, Murray's Lagoon, Beyeria Conservation Park and some of the other less well-known parks.

In explaining why Friends of Cape Gantheaume has gone on strike, vice president Ruth de la Lande said, "A regrettable but necessary decision as although we are a small group we feel strongly about this type of development and more importantly its location within the park."

The three KI Friends groups along with KI Eco-Action have formed the Public Parks NOT Private Playgrounds campaign to draw attention to the issue.

"There is a need to protect the wild, unspoiled, fragile coastal areas of Flinders Chase National Park from unnecessary and intrusive development," Friends of Parks KI Western Districts spokesperson Bev Maxwell said.

"It is the location and scale of the proposed accommodation villages that is at issue.

"They were supposed to be small-scale eco-tent-style accommodation along the KI Wilderness Trail but instead are clusters of ten substantial buildings sited prominently on exposed coastal sites far from the trail, requiring clearance of kilometres of additional tracks and roads."

The groups are awaiting the Native Vegetation Council's decision on the Australian Walking Company's application to clear native vegetation for the accommodation villages.

They are also seeking funds through crowdfunding to cover the costs of a legal challenge if it is required.

The volunteers will end their strike and resume working to assist ranger staff in managing parks and reserves for the benefit of all visitors and the environment if the proposed developments return to that allowed for in the binding Park Plan of Management, Ms Maxwell said.

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