Yumbah Aquaculture releases critical evaluation of KIPT's EIS response document

KIPT's proposed Smith Bay port and jetty in black and the neighbouring Yumbah Aquaculture abalone farm marked in yellow directly adjacent.
KIPT's proposed Smith Bay port and jetty in black and the neighbouring Yumbah Aquaculture abalone farm marked in yellow directly adjacent.

Yumbah Aquaculture has released a critical evaluation of Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers' response document for its proposed port at Smith Bay.

In other developments, the state government cabinet reshuffle has deputy premier Vickie Chapman, who hails from a local farming family, take over the Planning portfolio and the Environmental Impact Statement now sits with her.

Professor Chad Hewitt, director, Biosecurity and One Health Research Centre at Murdoch University, authored the 41-page evaluation, together with Professor Paul McShane and Dr Jacquelle Gorski.

Their critical evaluation of KIPT's response document specifically focusses on the final revisions to the EIS risk assessment and the company's response to stakeholder submissions.

"As with previous submissions, we have addressed not only the issues pertaining to Yumbah, but to the wider Smith Bay and Kangaroo Island environments," Prof. Hewitt wrote in his cover letter.

"We have found persistent and substantive issues with their response pertaining to flaws in their risk assessment, and erroneous and unsubstantiated opinions presented as fact dismissing scientifically valid concerns raised by stakeholders, including Yumbah.

"We note that despite earlier submissions identifying the procedural errors in the risk assessment, KIPT have not rectified the matter.

"The consequence of this continued application is to significantly downplay the Residual Risks providing a false sense of security that the KIPT management responses adequately reduce the Risks to acceptable levels.

"This approach violates the precautionary approach highlighted as an objective of the Environment Protection Act 1993. Even if we accept KIPT's assessment of mitigated Likelihoods the Residual Risks remain unacceptable with all biosecurity related hazards remaining High.

"We note serious threats still exist both to the environmental values of Smith Bay and Yumbah's aquaculture operation.

"Among the ecological and environmental hazards presented and assessed as risks, existential threats for Yumbah that remain include biosecurity, light spill, noise (vibration), dust (among other potential pollutants) and general degradation of the environment that is characteristic of a seaport.

"KIPT's response that Yumbah's site selection near the Port of Portland obviates any objections for Smith Bay Wharf impacts to Yumbah have been explicitly addressed.

"In noting these changes, we have undertaken to revise the KIPT Risk Assessment, using the scientific evidence and knowledge we hold.

"We find that the Fundamental and Residual Risks are significant, with many mitigation strategies failing to prevent or reduce the Fundamental Risks. Our finding suggest that more than half of the 50 Hazards retain Extreme (13/50) or High (14/50) Residual Risk ratings following KIPT mitigations.

"More generally, given the extant risks arising from seaport developments, KIPT's seaport proposal is contrary to the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, existing environmental protection legislation, and applicable South Australian policy, which promotes ecologically sustainable development of aquatic resources, and protection of environmental values including aquaculture."

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers meanwhile has welcomed the appointment of Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman as the new Minister for Planning and David Basham as the Minister for Primary Industries.

"Both Ms Chapman and Mr Basham are very familiar with Kangaroo Island and with the issues facing the Island community and economy," KIPT managing director Keith Lamb said.

"The 2019-20 bushfires have created an urgency regarding export of the damaged plantation timber.

We have been through a thorough assessment process, we are shovel-ready to build this transformative infrastructure and we're ready to work with the new ministers to achieve that."

KIPT has received its biggest insurance progress payment to date, taking its compensation for the summer bushfires to more than $55 million.

According to The Lead website, the company is claiming its $65 million tree crop insurance policy in full following the December and January fires that damaged 95 per cent of its crop.

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange on July 25, KIPT announced it had received the latest progress payment of $19.6 million following three previous payments of $10 million earlier in the year.

Last month it also reported it had agreed to a $5.9 million payout to cover the replacement of fire-damaged houses and sheds under its building insurance, which is separate to its $65 million tree crop cover.

KIPT has used some of the funds to pay off its Commonwealth Bank loans in full and has said it intends to use the remainder "to fund future operations of the company".

The company now faces a massive salvage operation to monetise the fire-affected timber, as it continues argue for a deep-sea port on the island' north coast, which it has been planning for almost four years.

It says it can salvage 4.5 million tonnes of fire-affected timber but only if it can be done relatively quickly.

Concern about the environmental impact of the $40 million port at Smith Bay, between Stokes and Emu bays, includes its potential impact on Kangaroo Island's abalone industry.

The Kangaroo Island fires began on December 20 and burnt 210,000ha - almost half of the island - across a 612 km perimeter before being declared contained on January 21.

KIPT's share price has more than halved since the fires started with its shares closing at $2.35 on December 20.

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