DEEP CREEK - Billionaire Australian media magnate Kerry Stokes is in talks with the state government to buy coastal land at Tunkalilla Beach.
The 31.14 hectares of land, owned by the state government, is valued at $925,000 and neighbours Balquhidder Station, which the Channel 7 chairman bought in 2007.
As part of the negotiations, if the land is sold to Mr Stokes, the Heysen Trail will be shifted from its existing route along back roads, to through the station to incorporate coastal views.
A Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) spokesperson said the current negotiations with Mr Stokes began in 2009.
But the government has been seeking access to reroute the Heysen Trail along the exceptional coastline on Balquhidder Station since Mr Stokes bought the station, and before that with the previous owner.
“If negotiations were to be successful, the trail would be able to be shifted from its existing route along back roads to include 18km of spectacular coastal views, vastly improving the experience for walkers,” the DEWNR spokesperson said.
If negotiations fail, the trail will not be rerouted and the land will not be sold.
Mr Stokes said he has owned land in the area for almost a decade.
“I work sheep and cattle there. It is a magnificent part of Australia and I am a genuine believer in South Australia and its natural environment,” he said.
Mr Stokes said he is committed to working closely with the department on the Heysen Trail.
“This is an amazing part of South Australia and I am looking forward to ensuring its heritage and also opening up the Heysen Trail,” he said.
“We were approached by the department to extend The Heysen Trail and create some hard stand facilities for youth engagement.”
He said there are no plans for development on the parcel of land, other than the possible construction of a private residence.
Friends of the Heysen Trail president Robert Albock welcomed the idea of possibly rerouting the trail through Mr Stoke’s property.
“We are very supportive for the trail to continue along the coastline,” he said.
Mr Albock said the trail had been traced around Balquhidder and along back roads due to the reluctance of the previous owner to have the trail pass through the property.
Mr Albock did not think the possibility of a private residence being built on the land by Mr Stokes would influence the trail.
“The trail runs past houses and properties,” he said.
The coastal land is currently known as the coast protection block because it was acquired by the Coast Protection Board in the 1980s to ensure there would always be public walking access to Tunkalilla Beach.
The DEWNR spokesperson said under any sale, the public walking path will be maintained across the land to allow access to Tunkalilla Beach, as well as a 30 metre-wide coastal reserve.