Concerns for tourists and road safety if controversial Kangaroo Island wharf gets go ahead

Published on The Advertiser 10 May 2017 – Click here to view the original article.

Farmer Andy Gilfillan, with daughter Asia, fears logging trucks will create road safety problems. Picture: Tom Huntley

OPPONENTS of a proposed wharf on Kangaroo Island are ramping up their campaign claiming local roads will be “irreversibly damaged” and tourists put at risk by logging trucks delivering to the site.

Island farmer, road safety lobbyist and aspiring state politician Andy Gilfillan claimed Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers (KPT) trucks would be dodging tourist buses on narrow roads as it moved logs to the wharf at Smith Bay.

“I want to keep our roads safe and absolutely, logging and trucks and international tourists don’t mix,” Mr Gilfillan, who started the island’s road safety committee, said.

Debate over the timber company’s plan to build a $30 million wharf at Smith Bay to boost the local economy has divided the island community after state Planning Minister John Rau announced it would be assessed as a major project.

Nearby Yumbah Aquaculture has rallied forces to first tell the government the wharf was a threat to its abalone business and also that the island’s road network would need multimillion-dollar upgrades to cope with trucks.

It has sent state Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan a briefing document claiming heavy freight could jeopardise the tourism industry.

“KI Council has flagged the enormous strain it faces to maintain roads, let alone upgrade them. It cannot fund a road network upgrade without significant State/Federal Government or private funding,” the submission says.

“If current road assets were to be replaced, this would cost in excess of $122 million.

“Without this financial input, KI’s road network will be unable to support the freight traffic of an intensive timber export program and is in significant jeopardy of being irreversibly damaged, with amenities destroyed and safety compromised.”

Debate was further fuelled in March when the state Planning, Transport and Infrastructure Department issued a cease-and-desist order against KPT and its contractor for investigative drilling in the bay.

On Monday, KPT met Development Assessment Commission representatives on the island to discuss plans for the rock causeway and floating berth designed for international cargo ships to collect loads directly from the island.

Company managing director John Sergeant said KPT has a traffic engineers report with road use options and was committed “to the highest environmental standards”.

He said the project could create some 120 new jobs directly, 168 flow-on jobs and could generate some $60 million a year in export income.

The company bought a pontoon for Smith Bay wharf from Hyundai Heavy Industries in April with plans for the wharf to also be used by cruise ships and other local businesses.

Mr Gilfillan, who has been preselected as the Liberal candidate to stand against current Forests, Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell for the seat of Mawson, said he “doesn’t know of any businesses on the island that will stop using the Penneshaw Cape Jervis port in favour of Smith Bay”.

“I don’t want anyone rushing in and making decisions we’re going to regret in the future, that’s how we ended up in this mess in the first place, people came in and said right, let’s plant blue gums on this beautiful farming land and it’s been a problem ever since,” he said.

Minister Rau’s spokeswoman said the Development Assessment Commission was still assessing the project, along with exploring alternative sites.