Alarmist claims Kangaroo Island will burn again upset locals

STORED PINE: Sprinklers have been activated at the dam on KIPT's Macgill property where it has plans to store more than 100,000 tonnes of pine. Photo: KIPT
STORED PINE: Sprinklers have been activated at the dam on KIPT's Macgill property where it has plans to store more than 100,000 tonnes of pine. Photo: KIPT

Spurious headlines in Adelaide media that Kangaroo Island will burn again like it did in the bushfires have upset locals.

Particularly when construction of any timber port was potentially years away and there have always been plans to make use of burned timber on the Island.

While a portion of pine logs are being salvaged for the timber industry, the vast majority of timber on the Island was Tasmanian blue gum slated for woodchipping.

DENIED: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber's wharf at Smith Bay was designed for woodchips. Photo: KIPT

DENIED: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber's wharf at Smith Bay was designed for woodchips. Photo: KIPT

COMPANY STORY: KIPT was able to tell the story of its recovery to Landline recently. Photo: KIPT

COMPANY STORY: KIPT was able to tell the story of its recovery to Landline recently. Photo: KIPT

The Smith Bay port was designed to stockpile and load up woodchips into giant Panamax class ships for export to Asia.

Up to 90 per cent of timber was completely or partially destroyed in the fires, meaning the value of that material as woodchip or sawlog is unclear.

Much of the damaged blue gums are sprouting back in an unkempt fashion, while "wildlings" or escaped seedlings are now causing ecological problems.

The spectre of Kangaroo Island burning again was raised after the state government denied approval of Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber port at Smith Bay.

The company has since released a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange announcing it was adopting an agricultural strategy.

KIPT chairman Paul McKenzie told The Islander he could not make any comment beyond what was said the stock exchange announcement.

The stock exchange announcement stated the current managing director had resigned and the position would not be replaced.

Mayor Michael Pengilly questioned why comments were made on behalf of the company in the Adelaide media when the chairman could not speak to the local newspaper.

Mr Pengilly said the company had received $60 million in insurance payouts, as well as government grants, and should have developed plans by now.

He questioned why the company's existing but damaged timber mill and processing facilities near Parndana at its base had not be already repaired to process salvageable timber.

"It's outrageous that a company that has already received millions is still asking for more," he said.

BIOCHAR PLANS: Rob Heathcote and resigning managing director Keith Lamb take samples for moisture in fire-damaged timber in the context of building a biochar plant with a $5.5 million grant. Photo: KIPT

BIOCHAR PLANS: Rob Heathcote and resigning managing director Keith Lamb take samples for moisture in fire-damaged timber in the context of building a biochar plant with a $5.5 million grant. Photo: KIPT

KIPT itself announced in December that it received $5.5 million bushfire recovery grant to support the establishment of a biomass pellet mill plant capable of processing fire-damaged timber.

"Over the past 12 months, KIPT has worked to secure diversified markets for dry product, that is, logs produced from forests that have been damaged by bushfire, beyond the tolerance of traditional export markets."

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers was also looking at alternative options to export salvageable pine logs at Kingscote, while logs were also being carted off the Island on the ferry, albeit at a loss by one particular mill.

Agriculture sector delighted

The Kangaroo Island agricultural sector is delighted with the decision and AgKI chairman Rick Morris said he had been waiting 20 years for the decision.

"This is the best news for the Island since the Soldier Settler Scheme in terms of the economic and social development," Mr Morris said.

"Hopefully we see more businesses, more families and more farm workers as what originally were 35 farms go back to agriculture."

The reversion back to farms and people living on the land could result in $15 million being injected into the local economy, as well as more students for the school and members for sporting clubs, he said.

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