The series of fires that started on Kangaroo Island on 20 December 2019 impacted approximately 49 per cent of the island – this included homes, farms, businesses, domestic animals and wildlife. It is estimated 80 per cent of the local population on the island were adversely affected in some way, however the catastrophic bushfires touched everyone within the community.
Not only did the Kangaroo Island community face the impact of the fires, they also subsequently were impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. The severe business downturn combined with job losses due to both the bushfires and Covid-19 had significant economic and psychological impacts on the local community.
BizRebuild is a business led initiative, developed by the Business Council of Australia, to provide practical and on the ground assistance to small and local businesses throughout Australia left devastated by the 2019/20 bushfire season. It is designed to run for five years specifically to help businesses recover to create jobs, rebuild stronger communities and restore thriving local economies in the bushfire affected regions of Australia.
To help with the rebuilding of Kangaroo Island, WSP provided stakeholder engagement and project management services to facilitate the community-led recovery.
Kangaroo Island is a major tourism destination for South Australia. WSP provided work on two projects for the region under the BizRebuild initiative – West End KI Community Recovery Project and the Parndana Town Hall.
The fire that ravaged the West End of Kangaroo Island impacted many local commercial businesses in the area. This included the loss of 231 out of the 263 commercial accommodation beds as well as the loss of residential and holiday home beds. The community knew that a significant rebuilding and recovery exercise was needed urgently. With the nearest major settlement of Kingscote some 50minutes drive away, they also realised that worker accommodation was required as a necessity. This infrastructure would not only support the many local businesses and residential rebuild efforts but also support the rebuilding of the destroyed Flinders Chase National Park facilities.
The Parndana Town Hall is a community asset in the heartland of the island and during the bushfires the hall became the central meeting point for aid, emergency briefings and provisions for donated clothing, food and water. The hall also came under attack four times from the burning embers of the approaching fire. The local Parndana Progress Association developed a project scope for the refurbishment of the hall and BizReBuild with WSP helped progress the renovation and refurbishment, creating a space for the benefit of the whole community.
In addition to the above two key projects, WSP was pivotal in identifying and assisting in developing support for the Kangaroo Island Local Government authority to progress business cases identified in the Council’s Prospectus and Bushfire Response to help with the rebuilding and recovery in addition to the energising of the Kingscote farmers market.
Agility In the Face of Adversity
Working in close collaboration with the BizRebuild team, in particular Brigadier Rupert Hoskin AM and key stakeholders including the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, South Australian Government, Kangaroo Island Local Recovery Coordinator, Kangaroo Island Council and the Parndana Progress Association, the WSP team provided solutions for helping the communities to thrive sustainably and become stronger. WSP’s contribution facilitated genuine participation with the community to self-determine. The development of the key recovery projects supported community resilience, wellbeing and connection.
All Roads Lead to Recovery on Kangaroo Island | WSP