$10 million, new location for Flinders Chase visitor centre on Kangaroo Island

PARK ANNOUNCEMENT: Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs holds up the new framework for rebuilding western Kangaroo Island's parks, in front of members of the Reimagine KI committee at the yacht club on Friday. Photo: Stan Gorton
PARK ANNOUNCEMENT: Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs holds up the new framework for rebuilding western Kangaroo Island's parks, in front of members of the Reimagine KI committee at the yacht club on Friday. Photo: Stan Gorton

A new Flinders Chase National Park visitor centre will be rebuilt on the land once owned by Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat just outside the current entrance to the park.

The state government is committing $10 million to the new Western Visitor Hub, whose construction should begin by the end of the year now that the new land has been acquired.

Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs made the announcement at the Kangaroo Island Yacht Club on Friday, May 21 with members of the Reimagine KI committee present.

"Kangaroo Island tourism industry contributes around $140 million annually to the regional economy, and the rebuild works will create more than 350 jobs in the region and will fast-track important works to iconic sites," Mr Speirs said.

"The rejuvenation of the tourism industry and rebuilding of key visitor infrastructure is essential for the economic, social, and environmental recovery of the island and its community."

A recommendation from the Reimagine KI community engagement process proposed the opportunity for a visitor centre location at the entrance to the park and this new location aligns with this vision, he said.

The Flinders Chase National Park visitor centre was completely destroyed during the devastating bushfires in 2020.

The $10-million rebuild will create a new precinct, which will result in a world-class, easily accessible facility that enhances the visitor experience on Kangaroo Island's western end.

The rebuild is part of the state government's $52 million investment in rebuilding essential parks infrastructure to support and rejuvenate Kangaroo Island's visitor economy.

Mayor Michael Pengilly spoke at the announcement saying it was an excellent idea to move the visitor to the new location and hoped it could be built soon.

"Currently there is not much west of Parndana, except for the Western KI caravan park, which is doing exceptionally well," he said.

He also encouraged the minister to push his department to do more to address the issue of blue gum seedlings he said had spread out from the timber plantations.

Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary co-owner Jim Geddes said things were already picking up on the south coast and west end.

The sanctuary reopened for guided tours the same week Flinders Chase reopened in July 2020, and visitors were coming wanting to learn about the fire's impacts on wildlife and leaving great feedback, he said.

"The Vivonne Bay general store is also a real success story with 24-year-old local boy Ty Boyle taking it over just before COVID," Mr Geddes said. "Business is booming and they are expanding. He is employing many locals including what seems like about half of the Wonks netball squad. It is an iconic KI destination providing very valuable services."

Friends of Parks KI Western Districts did not attend the announcement due to its ongoing concerns about private development inside the park.

The minister while on KI also visited the Landscape Board's native plant nursery, the Parndana community garden and Seal Bay.

Following the Reimagine KI engagement process, two community framework documents have also been released, one for Western Kangaroo Island parks and the other for Seal Bay, which is set to be upgraded to National Park status.

These two frameworks summarise the community vision, guiding principles, opportunities and ideas for future-focused, quality visitor experiences within Kangaroo Island parks.

Western Visitor Hub

Mr Speirs said the new $10 million Western Visitor Hub was an exciting development for Kangaroo Island, following the devastating bushfires and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

"The new hub will allow us to create a world-class visitor experience for these western Kangaroo Island parks, which includes eight parks such as Flinders Chase National Park, Kelly Hill Conservation Park, the Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area and Cape Bouguer Wilderness Protection Area," he said.

"The location of the hub supports a conservation-first approach to visitor experiences and interactions with parks.

"The hub will provide visitor orientation and information about the island's landscape and history and education on conservation, offering an authentic, interactive and immersive experience for visitors.

"The hub will also provide the opportunity for potential co-location with universities, conservation or research partners, as well as providing a multi-functional event space and a focus on locally made produce for sale.

"I'd like to thank the many people who participated in this consultation and the Community Reference Groups for their valuable contribution to reimagining visitor experiences in Kangaroo Island parks."

The Western Visitor Hub has been prioritised for delivery, with construction set to start from the end of this year, he said.

"The rest of the recommendations from the community reference documents, along with ecological considerations and feasibility studies, will help inform future upgrades in parks," he said.

A tender for the design and construction of the world-class visitor hub will be released in June.

For further updates visit www.engagementhub.parks.sa.gov.au

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