Protesters critical of coastal lakes project

Protesters critical of coastal lakes project

A350-strong gathering in Millicent on Friday night has called on the State Government to terminate its South East Coastal Lakes Project for Lake Bonney and Lake George.

The project proposes to extend the National Parks in those areas and reduce some public activities like hunting.

Several speakers were highly critical of the decision of the Department of Environment and Water/National Parks and Wildlife Service to accept funds from an American private foundation to run the consultation about the project.

Time and time again, the two State Government agency representatives were asked to justify the addition of areas around the two lakes into the National Parks network.

It was stressed by protesters that existing legislation allowed the authorities to control such matters as camping grounds and campfires without the need to declare them National Parks.

Numerous speakers claimed the National Parks and Wildlife Service was already lacking in manpower and financial resources and would be unable to cope with the management of the additional areas in any case.

Those in attendance included two uniformed senior National Parks managers, former Grant Mayor Richard Sage, six elected members of Wattle Range Council and six politicians: Independents Nick McBride and Troy Bell and Liberals Tony Pasin, Ben Hood, Adrian Pederick and Dr Nicola Centofanti.

Apologies for non-attendance were tabled from Labor politicians Premier Peter Malinauskas, Environment Minister Dr Susan Close and Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven.

Lasting two hours, the public meeting was held at the Millicent War Memorial Civic and Arts Centre and was organised by the Conservation and Hunting Alliance of South Australia.

Chaired by CHASA president Graham Stopp, there were scheduled speeches from Laurie Hein about Lake Bonney and David Dunsford and Lee Morgan about Lake George.

National Parks and Wildlife Service programs director Jason Irving said Lake Bonney and Lake George and others are important coastal landscapes both ecologically and recreationally.

Mr Irving said phase one of public consultation was conducted during 2022 and provided important information on how the community uses and values the lakes.

He said the community told the NPWS they wished to protect current recreational uses and the environment.

“This feedback directly influenced the draft proposal document now out for further consultation,” Mr Irving said.

“For example, based on community feedback, the department is proposing to protect areas of high value at Lake George and Lake Bonney, while keeping large areas under unchanged management.

“The proposal document currently out for consultation seeks to balance the community’s use and enjoyment of the coastal lakes with the need to maintain and protect their unique and iconic features.

“The department is conducting a second round of consultation to ensure all community concerns and expectations are well understood and it closes on July 29.

“Upon completion of the latest round of consultation, a detailed report will be presented to the Environment Minister Dr Susan Close who will take the community’s feedback into consideration before making any decisions.”

All six politicians in attendance made statements including Mr Bell who queried the weight of local opinions in the consultation process.

Mr Bell was concerned the opinions of Adelaide and Sydney residents would have the same value as South Easterners.

According to Mr Pasin, the State Government regarded the consultation process as a low priority as it accepted funds from an overseas foundation to run it.

“What is wrong with the status quo?” Mr Pasin said.

Millicent resident Allan Gurney urged locals to submit their feedback in hard copy as soon as possible to meet the July 29 deadline.

Mr Pederick also runs a mixed farming property at Coomandook and he queried the motives of conservationists who were looking to extend National Parks.

“Be afraid… be very afraid,” Mr Pederick said.

“They will be coming after our food production areas next.”

Rendelsham farmer Iain Stewart recalls being one of 400 protesters at a rally on the Hatherleigh Oval many years ago after the National Parks and Wildlife Service erected barriers to stop access to popular coastal areas.

“We are still here,” Mr Stewart said.

Former Beachport and Wattle Range Councillor Sue Wheal urged the State Government authorities to use the skills and knowledge of locals on management committees.

As well as the motion calling for a halt to the National Parks extension proposal, the meeting also called on the State Government to value the management committees.

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