Thursday, April 23, 2015

#Penguin aquarium fast-tracked to boost SA tourism

Granite Island 
Photo: A causeway lets tourists reach Granite Island off Victor Harbor. (User submitted: Brian Cartwright)
A planned multi-million-dollar offshore aquarium off Granite Island, south of Adelaide, is being fast-tracked with hopes of reviving the tourist region at Victor Harbor.

Developer Oceanic Victor is behind the idea, which would see tourists reach the aquarium by boat from the Granite Island jetty. "It would involve an in-sea aquarium, being able to swim with different sorts of fish, hand-feed them, interactive touch pools so you can learn about the wonderful marine life we have in South Australia," company advisor Emma Forster told 891 ABC Adelaide.

The number of little penguins has been in decline at the island over recent years, but the State Government said the latest environment reports were that the numbers had stabilized.

SA Environment Minister Ian Hunter said Granite Island was "certainly a little bit run down" and the Government had been working with the council and others on turning the decline around. "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," he said.

Little penguins rescued and cared for

Dorothy Longden manages the island's existing penguin centre and said it was continuing its efforts to rescue and support the area's little penguins.
She told 891 ABC Adelaide she was worried whether the penguins would be able to compete with feeding demands of introduced species in an offshore aquarium.
What frightens me is what's going to happen with the fish, birdlife and the dolphins. There's only so much fish around there.
Dorothy Longden, Penguin Centre

"What frightens me is what's going to happen with the fish, birdlife and the dolphins," she said.
"There's only so much fish around there."
She also hoped there was no plan to get rid of the current penguin centre as part of a new tourism venture.

Photo: Penguin numbers have declined over the years at Granite Island. (ABC News)

"We're still rescuing penguins at the penguin centre so it's important it stays," she said.
Ms Longden said the new plan was not the first offshore tourism venture for Granite Island.
"Ten years ago we did have an oceanarium out there, it was brought from Port Lincoln and it had sharks out there and different fish and it worked, it was quite successful," she recalled.
"The boat trip out there was quite pleasant and people liked that."
She said there was sometimes pollution offshore and the previous venture had worked hard to clean its underwater viewing windows at times.
On Granite Island's current popularity, she said: "Weekends it's very busy and in the week there's just nobody around in winter, it's cold."

Aquarium no feeding threat to penguins, developer says

Oceanic Victor said South Australian-sourced pilchards would be used to feed species brought to the proposed aquarium, so there would not be any feeding threat to existing south coast marine life.
The company said it was keen for the venture to be established by next summer.

The Minister said the fast-tracking involved proponents working with the state coordinator-general, where projects valued at more than $3 million were helped through the red tape process so new investment materialized sooner.

"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," Mr Hunter said.
"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."
Local state MP Michael Pengilly said he looked forward to any venture that enhanced the south coast region.

"There's 3 million visitors a year that go to the Fleurieu [Peninsula], they're looking for things to do, the only horse-drawn tram in the world is at Victor and I think that, rather than drive eight hours to [Port] Lincoln, they can drive an hour down to Victor and take families out there, it's a fantastic asset for the region," he said.

The Government said public feedback would be sought soon on the Granite Island plan.


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