In January 2021, the South Australian Government published a Development Regulation Variation in the SA Government Gazette permitting developments over $1million in Flinders Chase National Park without planning approval. Previous development approvals were cancelled and approval was granted for Australian Walking Company to build its accommodation after making changes to its plans.

The company withdrew the original application, the subject of the court case, and submitted a new application exempt from the normal development (including native vegetation) processes. The court case collapsed despite Eco-Action having spent many thousands of dollars donated by supporters, to fight the Supreme Court action.

 While this was very disappointing for the many supporters who had donated time, money and resources to fighting the location and size of the accommodation villages and therefore environmental impact, the mediated outcome had seen some gains and some of the concerns addressed. The main ones are:

•  the private accommodation formerly located at Sandy Creek in Flinders Chase National Park has been removed and will be replaced with a new site closer to Rocky River;

• the new Rocky River location is back closer to the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, making use of existing tracks and pre-developed areas where possible and will be apparently less visible from the coast;

• modifications to the proposed accommodation at Sanderson Bay include the removal of over 600 metres of new walking track.

 In addition, AWC will continue to engage consultant ecologists to work with the company in developing both sites in a manner which is sensitive to each location. A conservation dividend has been negotiated as part of the agreement for a fire recovery project targeted to long-term pre and post fire ecosystem ecological  monitoring. A committee of 5 comprising representatives from Eco-Action, Friends of Parks (KI Western Districts) and representatives from the Department for Environment and Water will develop and manage the project.

While acknowledging that Eco-Action was forced to abandon the court action because of the changes to the regulations, the fantastic efforts made by individual and organisational supporters of PPNotPP should not be undervalued. We have ensured that the Government is aware of the strength of feeling around the importance of National Parks remaining as public places for the conservation of our natural areas.

 We can be proud of what we have achieved while at the same time we cannot afford to be complacent. There is still a strong push for weakening the integrity of our parks and reserves as places for protecting our wild places and the plants and animals that live there.

We need your help again
One of the key foundations for the activity against the proposed development was that it breached the amended Flinders Chase National Park Management Plan. A new management plan has been drafted for the parks of Western and Central Kangaroo Island (15 parks in all —including National Parks, Wilderness Protection Areas and Conservation Reserves) and we are concerned that the draft plan seriously erodes the conservation role of our parks in favour of commercial exploitation. Please take the time to have your say about the draft Plan of Management. More information here.

The Problem

Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island has been protected for over 100 years. Along its almost 100 km of coast are only two human-built structures: Cape Borda and Cape du Couedic lighthouses.

The five-day Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail opened in 2016 with community consultation and agreement. The trail has four campsites and the original idea was that harder eco-friendly structures would be constructed nearby for softer walkers.

The four campsites are close to existing roads and discreetly located in secluded sites away from sensitive coastal habitats. However, the Department of Environment and Water has endorsed a proposal by the Australian Walking Company to develop two private luxury accommodation villages away from the trail:

  • each has 10 substantial buildings, water tanks, lookouts and connecting paths
  • they are located up to 2.5 km from the Wilderness Trail
  • they are conspicuously placed on pristine coastal sites overlooking wild and remote beaches
  • additional roads and walking tracks will be cleared through native vegetation
  • they directly impact a number of nationally threatened species. 

That’s impact at those fragile sites, impact in the extra trail length and impact from the service roads. And Sandy Creek hikers will arrive at their remote coastal destination to be overlooked by buildings on the headland.

‘The idea doesn’t stack up. It’s like saying the MCG needs a corporate box in the centre square to give well-heeled patrons a better view of the game.’

We do not oppose small-scale eco-sensitive accommodation located along the trail, close to existing roads, as allowed for in the Management Plan. We oppose:

  • the location and scale of the proposed development, and
  • that it blatantly disregards the binding Flinders Chase National Park Management Plan.

What do we want? The Environment Minister and his Department to listen to the community and return this development to the one specified in the Management Plan: i.e. small scale eco-accommodation along the trail, close to existing road access and away from the sensitive coastal zone.

Sandy Beach headland, Flinders Chase National Park

What we’ve been doing about it

The island community campaigned to bring this development back to the original concept with support from many organisations such as the Royal Society of SA, Conservation SA, the Wilderness Society SA, the National Trust SA, Field Naturalists Society of SA, KI Natural Resources Management Board, and Friends of Parks groups across South Australia.

We made our message clear to the developers and the department that we needed them to act and change their plans. We established a case for the development to be challenged in the Supreme Court for:

  • not being legal under the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972
  • not according with the “Flinders Chase National Park, Kelly Hill Conservation Park, Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area and Cape Bouguer Wilderness Protection Area Management Plans” (adopted in 2000 with amendment in 2017)
  • proceeding without appropriate community consultation
  • proceeding without a legitimate environmental assessment of the potential impacts on nationally threatened species and referral under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Our case was to be heard by the Full Bench of the SA Supreme Court. The directions hearing before Chief Justice Kourakis in the case that Kangaroo Island Eco-Action has brought against Australian Walking Company and the State Government of South Australia, was held (briefly and virtually) on 1 April 2020. The matter was listed for a further directions hearing on 5 February 2021. All parties consented to the delay and conditions. Read here for the latest update.

Approaching Sanderson Bay, Flinders Chase National Park

How you can help

Join us in fighting against cuts to our parks and reserves:

Write to Minister Speirs, Premier Marshall and your local MP

Write letters to media outlets (newspapers, radio, TV)

Donate to the campaign via EFT to:
Kangaroo Island Eco-Action
BSB 105-094, Account no. 035312540
Please confirm any donations by email to: publicparksflch@gmail.com

Click here to follow us on Facebook.

Click here to become a supporter so we can keep you up-to-date with the campaign.

Sandy Beach, Flinders Chase National Park


Approaching Sanderson Bay, Flinders Chase National Park

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