Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers Ltd (ASX:KPT) has an EIS for a deepwater port facility for exports from its plantations on Kangaroo Island on display and is confident that the project will be good for the environment.
The Environmental Impact Statement for the facility at Smith Bay on the island’s north coast is on public display with written submissions invited until 5pm on May 28, 2019.
Managing director John Sergeant said the company remained hopeful that the facility for timber and woodchip exports was capable of approval without further extended delays.
“Both the Minister and the Department of Planning already fully understand all the issues. All other South Australian government agencies, and the Commonwealth, have also had input into the finished EIS.
“For our part, we look forward to receiving responses from members of the public, and we remain willing to modify the proposal to enhance the environmental, social or economic outcomes of the development, or address the concerns of objectors where we can.
“Supporters of the project can also have their say and we urge shareholders who want to express a view to do so,” he said.
The EIS has environmental, social and economic components and KPT believes most objections will be based on the perceived environmental effects of the development, or of forestry itself.
One reason is that the social and economic benefits of the project for the island and for South Australia are so significant that no credible objector would complain on this basis.
Another is that Kangaroo Island is an ecological treasure and people are rightly cautious about the environmental effects of any development.
The third is that the principal opponent of the development, the nearby on-land aquaculture business, has for some time suggested that the project will be very harmful to the environment in all sorts of ways, albeit without any credible evidence to support its contentions.
“We believe that the project will in fact be good for the environment,” Sergeant said. “This is unusual for a major infrastructure project.”
KPT highlights four points from the EIS.
Plantation forestry good for environment
During the 'forest wars' of the mid-1990s, the Keating government was under pressure to protect native forests from logging and to protect jobs in communities that depended on access to native forests.
Part of the solution was to encourage greater investment in plantation forestry, including native species such as Tasmanian Bluegum that grows so well on Kangaroo Island.
All states and territories signed a national agreement aimed at getting more trees in the ground, so that plantation timber could be harvested and supplied to domestic and overseas mills, while preserving important native forests from further logging.
Most plantations on Kangaroo Island were planted as a direct result of this initiative to lessen Australia’s dependence on unsustainable native forest logging, including through generous tax provisions.
Peak planting years were 2005 to 2008 when thousands of hectares of bluegums were established but most companies that planted the trees went broke due to dependence on revenue from tax-driven schemes.
Meanwhile, the world’s demand for lumber and particularly wood fibre has kept growing and Kangaroo Island’s timber has grown well.
Sergeant said: “The Smith Bay wharf development enables a sustainable plantation timber industry to exist on the island, so that a plantation crop, rather than a native forest somewhere else, can be harvested.
“The need to protect high conservation value native forests is a very good environmental reason for supporting the wharf that makes plantation forestry viable on Kangaroo Island.”
The ability of plantations to sequester carbon in a permanent and sustainable way is another sound environmental reason put forward by KPT to support the wharf.
“There simply is no other method of sequestering carbon dioxide that compares with the efficiency of a timber plantation.
“If Australia’s bipartisan national target of a billion more plantation trees is to be realised, then including forestry fully in the national carbon accounts is a necessary first step.
“It certainly works in New Zealand, which has the same target and, unlike Australia, is making good progress towards it,” Sergeant said.
Designed for minimal impact
The KI Seaport at Smith Bay has been designed for minimal environmental impact.
A long causeway and approach jetty mean that dredging is minimal compared to most ports.
Average dredge depth is about 80 centimetres and the material to be dredged is mainly coarse sand and cobbles, which do not result in persistent sediment plumes.
Also, the hydrodynamic environment is well-understood, so off-site effects can be controlled.
Plans for the proposed export port at Smith Bay.
The EIS suggests stop-work criteria be set at one-tenth the level of any possible harm to filter-feeding organisms.
In other words, the whole process can be managed without any significant environmental risk.
Use of a jetty structure and a floating pontoon minimises seabed disturbance in the footprint of the structure, so that the solid causeway is used only in relatively shallow water near the shore, where its footprint is small.
KPT expects the Seaport will have no significant negative effect on the marine environment and will create a slightly improved situation for the onshore aquaculture business east of the proposed facility.
Confident of environmental credentials
Sergeant concluded: “Taking all these factors into account, we are confident that our project is good for the environment.
“That is important in its own right but also good for the company, as an increasing number of institutional and private shareholders seek to invest only in companies that, like KPT, are making a positive difference … socially, economically and environmentally.”
The EIS is available online, via the following link: www.sa.gov.au/planning/majordevelopments.
The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure will convene public meetings: Wednesday, May 1, 1pm-7pm, Kingscote Town Hall, Dauncey Street, Kingscote, Kangaroo Island; Thursday, May 2, 11am-4pm, Parndana Town Hall, Parndana, Kangaroo Island; Tuesday, May 7, 12pm-6pm Ground Floor, 50 Flinders Street, Adelaide.