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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

07/06/2017: Kangaroo Island, Australia, divided over plans for deep sea wood chip port

Commercial abalone farmer David Connell by the pristine waters of South Australia's Kangaroo Island - Picture: Kelly Barnes
 South Australia’s Kangaroo Island is split by plans to build a deep sea port on its north coast to ship woodchips directly to China and Japan to be made into paper and disposable nappies.

 At stake is the island’s rising fame as an international high-end wilderness and eco-tourism destination, its clean-green food and wine reputation and the survival of a AUS$40 million abalone farm next door to the proposed woodchip stack and wharf. 

 Opponents fear the death of thousands of native animals, including koalas, sooty kangaroos, tammar wallabies and echidnas, as semi-trailers carrying woodchips and logs thunder down its sleepy dirt backroads to the proposed new Smith Bay port. 

 There are also concerns for the safety of tourists as well as for the welfare of dolphins, humpback whales and sea eagles that live and breed at the planned port site. 

 Smith Bay, northwest of the island’s main town Kingscote, is protected as a coastal conservation zone, with the proposed 200m-long rock wharf where bulk carriers will be loaded with woodchips bought by Japan’s Mitsui corporation described as a “non-complying” development. 

 The deep sea port proposal by listed timber company Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber has been handed major project status by the SA Labor government, removing it from the local council’s hands. 

 It was a move that devastated David Connell, manager of adjacent Yumbah Aquaculture. 

 Yumbah’s greenlip abalone breeding facility, where 15 million young abalone in covered tanks rely on constantly circulated pristine seawater to survive and grow, generates AUS$7m of frozen and fresh abalone exports annually. 

 Mr Connell remarked, “It’s so frustrating; we’ve been selling Kangaroo Island’s clean-green reputation to the world for 22 years with our abalone; this is an industry that has the potential to be enormous."

 He continues “But just as demand for our sustainably farmed abalone is taking off in Asia, the government seems to expect us to farm here and still be clean and green, with a huge stack of woodchips next door and a super-Panamax parked 200m from my water intake.” 

 South Australian Premier Jay Wetherill yesterday visited the proposed Smith Bay port site while on Kangaroo Island for a country cabinet meeting. 

 He will today announce the December start of direct flights from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island by Qantas, as tourism interest in the wild island with fewer than 4500 residents but teeming with native wildlife grows, especially from luxury European travellers. 

 KIPT managing director John Sergeant is confident the ¬company’s proposed deep-sea port — which it is also promoting as a cruise ship wharf — will ¬receive ¬independent environmental ¬approval and the political green light before next year’s state ¬election.

 “We welcome the support but we are not looking for government money; we just want the project ¬assessed scientifically, independently and on time, so we can get on with it,” Mr Sergeant said. 

 “This is a good project and ensuring the highest water quality is critical to us; we are talking about a new sustainable industry that will transform Kangaroo Island. 

 “Tourism and agriculture are highly seasonal but our jobs will be year-round.” 

 The timber company claims the new AUS$30m port will generate AUS$60m in export earnings annually, create 50 construction jobs and employ 118 locals in its plantations.

Read original news story here. 

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