Tourism to the rescue?
Tourism is incredibly important for Kangaroo Island, and income generated from vacationmakers over the next few years is going to be vital to recovery efforts.
The worst-affected parts of the island were to the west. However, this is an island the size of Manhattan – it is still very much possible to vacation here and barely notice there have been any fires at all. Many of the most popular tourism attractions are closed indefinitely, though, including Flinders Chase National Park, home to Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks, and Lathami Conservation Park. Know before you go which places are closed
, so that you can adjust your expectations, and your itinerary.
Craig Wickham from our specialist operator Tasmanian Odyssey’s guiding company, Exceptional Kangaroo Island:
“The fire covered about 50% of the Island - but this means 50% (or 2500 square kilometres) is not impacted. This area unaffected still includes about 18 conservation parks and reserves, 30 vineyards, all of our cellar door and farm gate experiences, Seal Bay was unaffected, the lower reaches of the Cygnet River valley and the entire Dudley Peninsula unaffected. None of our towns were destroyed - a few buildings on the edge of Vivonne Bay but the town is largely intact.
Flinders Chase took the brunt of the damage in terms of park infrastructure - that and Kelly Hill Caves. Remarkable Rocks toilets and boardwalks are gone but the Cape du Couedic lighthouse, keepers’ cottages, boardwalks and the fur seal colony was completely unaffected.”
But are all forms of tourism as useful as others? Could some even be counterproductive?
Long before these latest bushfires took a heavy toll there were concerns about aspects of the Kangaroo Island tourism industry. Some relate to a perhaps unexpected target and one that most people would probably regard as positive: the growth of ecotourism
. ‘Luxury ecotourism’ is seen by many national park authorities around the world as a potentially lucrative opportunity to increase funds for conservation. But given that it also often means developing infrastructure in public spaces, often for experiences that are off-limits to all but the wealthiest, there is an obvious conflict between public and private interests.
Park authorities in many places are faced with slashed funding for conservation, and Australia is certainly no exception
. When the lines between conservation, leisure and economic development in protected spaces become blurred, too often it is conservation that loses out. One of the greatest threats to humanity right now is our inability to appreciate the value of healthy biodiversity.