Port Lincoln developers reveal eco-tourism plans for Granite Island

An underwater observatory, swimming with marine life and hand feeding of fish are new initiatives that are on the table for Granite Island.

The state government, which manages the island, will assess a proposal that could result in a new tourist venture based from Granite Island.

Developers propose a marine tourism venture in the waters off Granite Island and will send representatives to give a presentation at the Monday, April 27, City of Victor Harbor council meeting.

The project has been put forward by Oceanic Victor Pty Ltd directors Tony Santic and Michael Dyer and the company's adviser Emma Forster.

They approached the office of the state coordinator-general about the project, which is being considered in accordance with the government's guidelines for assessing unsolicited proposals.

In an email to parties including the Victor Harbor Business Association and The Times on Thursday, April 23, City of Victor Harbor CEO Graeme Maxwell said representatives for the project, Michael Dyer and Emma Forster, will be making a presentation to the council meeting. 

"I understand the Oceania Victor has been given a green light to proceed through a consultation and assessment process which may ultimately result in both on-shore and off-shore facilities being developed and operated by a consortium from Port Lincoln," Mr Maxwell said.

"While it is early days, there is an air of confidence that the proposal will proceed if community acceptance and government will is present.

"The proponents are certainly enthusiastic.

"The experience they are developing involves diving with tuna and other species using a facility to be relocated from Port Lincoln and they also have an interest in the current on-shore facilities such as the kiosk and penguin centre." 

Emma Forster is a spokesperson for Oceania Victor and has strong links to the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Emma went to school at Rapid Bay Primary School and Yankalilla Area School and her father Ron Forster built the underwater observatory in 1989, which was used in the waters of Port Lincoln and instrumental in the start of the tuna industry and used off Granite Island from 1997 to 2004.

"I grew up at Cape Jervis and now looking forward to this project," Ms Forster said.

"We have a masterplan for the Granite Island precinct and invigorating the island will incorporate the penguin centre and the kiosk.

"The project will promote education, tourism and the cultural significance of the area.

"The plan is to make Granite Island the premier marine discovery centre in South Australia." 

An underwater observatory is nothing new to Granite Island, as the lessee of the island from 1997 to 2004, Stephen Edwards, purchased the observatory built by Ron Forster and had it operational for students and visitors for seven years in the waters off Granite Island.

Mr Edwards sold it back to Mr Forster at the completion of his seven year lease.

"It would be fantastic to have it back there," Mr Edwards said.

"It was well received when I had it and now they have spent a lot more money on it and these improvements  will make it a wonderful attraction.

"The platform will be better and it is something Granite Island needs."

Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter said the proposal, which needs to pass through all relevant approvals, is an opportunity to reinvigorate Granite Island.

"We're very keen to explore every opportunity to generate tourism ventures that make the most of our clean, green image," Mr Hunter said.

"This proposal has the potential to promote Granite Island and the Fleurieu region and develop an exciting visitor experience that works hand-in-hand with the region's marine parks.

"The public can rest assured it will be rigorously assessed against all relevant legislation and the guidelines for dealing with unsolicited proposals before any decision is made."

"This proposal has already passed through the first stage of the process, involving a preliminary assessment of whether it delivers good outcomes for the community.

"Now, the project's proponent will need to provide a comprehensive business case to be assessed through the relevant government agencies.

"If the proposal is accepted, the government will then begin contract negotiations with the proponent."

Mr Hunter said the community would be given the opportunity to have their say on various aspects of the project, with details to be announced in the near future.