Sharks, employment opportunities, why Victor Harbor is the chosen site for a new tourism venture and environmental impacts were topics discussed at a community forum on Thursday, July 23.
The information night was in relation to a proposal by Oceanic Victor to provide a tourism experience at Granite Island.
Oceanic Victor's proposal includes providing visitors the chance to swim with a range of native fish including southern blue fin tuna, hand feeding fish from a viewing platform, viewing fish from an underwater observatory and managing the kiosk and penguin centre on the island.
The company is applying for a marine aquaculture lease, which would see the business attain a one-year pilot lease, allowing it to operate in waters off the island.
If the lease is approved, the proposal will progress to a development assessment and further community consultation will begin.
The proposal is currently undergoing an examination process through the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), which owns the land at Granite Island.
DEWNR initiated the community meeting at the Victor Harbor Recreation Centre to gain community feedback.
Government agencies for tourism and planning, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) were also in attendance, along with Oceanic Victor director Mike Dyer and adviser Emma Forster.
Questions were raised on why the underwater observatory would be moved from Port Lincoln to Victor Harbor.
Mr Dyer said the development will be more than a tourist attraction.
"Port Lincoln is more than six hours away from Adelaide or a plane trip, Victor Harbor is a one-hour drive, and we will have easier and greater access to schools in the metropolitan area," Mr Dyer said.
"It will be an educational tool as this is all about education; biodiversity, marine parks, and having the fishing community and tourism all work together.
"We think our proposal fits Granite Island and if the offshore facility is working it will flow to other businesses."
South Australian Tourism Commission's Shaun de Bruyn said the Port Lincoln example proves there will be a flow on effect for businesses in Victor Harbor.
"It was successful there and has the potential to enhance visitor appeal in Victor Harbor," Mr de Bruyn said.
"It makes people stay longer and our studies show that for every $160,000 spent a new job is created indirectly.
"We do not have exact numbers, but the potential benefit of this proposal is to create dozens of jobs."
Roscoe Shelton from DEWNR told attendees the proposal is currently going through the assessment phase.
“The night was about gathering the community’s views and it will all be part of the submission,” Mr Shelton said.
“The proposal has many facets as it involves so many government departments and they all have to approve it before it can go to cabinet.
“Oceanic Victor, council (City of Victor Harbor), DPTI, PIRSA, EPA and the community are all stakeholders in this and we are still at the early stages of this assessment process.”
The question and answer session provided the community an opportunity to find out what was happening and the impact the development would have on Granite Island and its surrounding waters.
The surfing, sailing and swimming community were most concerned the underwater observatory would attract sharks to the area.
PIRSA’s Dr Peter Lauer said “studies show sharks may be curious, but if there is no benefit from staying in the proximity of the cages they will move on.”
Questions also related to why the underwater observatory would be moved from Port Lincoln to Victor Harbor.
Former fisherman Colin Wood asked about the impact increased traffic will have on the causeway.
“The pylons supporting the causeway are 140-years-old and have 4.5 tonne capacity,” Mr Wood said.
“Five years ago it had a 20 tonne capacity, so will this be an impediment to this venture.”
DPTI’s Jenny Cassidy said the current 4.5 tonnne capacity will remain.
“There is no thought of raising it to 20 tonnes,” Ms Cassidy said.
“Oceanic Victor will need a permit to carry equipment and to utilise the boom gate to use the causeway.”
Public feedback is ongoing until July 31 and can be made at www.pir.sa.gov.au/graniteisland
The marine aquaculture lease is being assessed by PIRSA. A pilot lease can be approved on a yearly basis for three to five years.
This week, we want to know, Do you agree with the proposal by Oceanic Victor for its tourism venture at Granite Island?
At the eleventh hour Victor Harbor councillors are calling for more time to submit feedback on Oceanic Victor’s Granite Island tourism proposal.
On Monday, July 27, City of Victor Harbor elected members voted to hold a public briefing session tonight (Thursday, July 30) at the council chambers and to send a letter to Primary Industries Regions South Australia (PIRSA) to seek additional time to respond on the proposal.
Guests speakers Tony and Phyll Bartram from Kangaroo Island and Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch, and Dr John Biggins from the Friends of Granite Island will speak regarding environmental and other concerns in relation to the Oceanic Victor proposal.
Councillor Bob Marshall moved the motion to hold the session and said it was urgent, because the submissions to PIRSA close on July 31.
“I have an open mind on this proposal, but we need more information on this,” Cr Marshall said.
Oceanic Victor first made a presentation to council at its April 27 meeting and since held various community forums, including an information night on Thursday, July 23, hosted by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
Council’s chief executive officer Graeme Maxwell said the public consultation period seeks feedback on Oceanic Victor applying for an aquaculture lease.
“PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture advised on July 2 that submissions had been invited in relation to their consideration of an application for an aquaculture pilot lease and corresponding licence from Oceanic Victor,” Mr Maxwell said.
“Elected members and staff were advised of this consultation process via email circulated on July 3.”
Cr Marshall advised against a submission at this stage.
“Time frames do not allow it,” he said.
“We need to know more about the environmental impact.”
“An urgent letter needs to be sent to PIRSA so we can gain more time to make our submission.”
In agreeing with Cr Marshall, councillor Tim Glazbrook said the proposal has a focus on the aquatic side and not enough on Granite Island itself.
“Consideration is needed on the land-based issues on the island, as they are just as important,” Cr Glazbrook said.
“We need to know more about Oceanic Victor’s masterplan for Granite Island.”
The public briefing session will be held at 5.30pm at the City of Victor Harbor council chambers.
The proposal, consisting of an underwater observatory, the restaurant/kiosk and penguin centre, is currently undergoing an application for an aquaculture pilot lease.