Biodiversity publications archive

Reimbursing the future: an evaluation of motivational, voluntary, price-based, property-right, and regulatory incentives for the conservation of biodiversity

Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 9
M.D. Young, N. Gunningham, J. Elix, J. Lambert, B. Howard, P. Grabosky and E. McCrone
CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, the Australian Centre for Environmental Law, and Community Solutions
Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 642 24429 4

Appendix 2.5: Kangaroo Island tourism case study

Prepared by Heather Lynch
CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, Canberra


This document presents a case study of the potential of incentive instruments and mechanisms designed to promote the conservation of biodiversity on Kangaroo Island. The aim of the study is to outline the biodiversity values on the island, determine the threatening processes that exist, and recommend instrument mixes to conserve the biodiversity values. In particular, the study focuses on the impact of nature-based tourism and ecotourism on biological diversity and discusses the use of incentives and instruments to minimise threats to biodiversity values by the tourism industry.

The area

Kangaroo Island is situated 13 kilometres from the south-eastern coast of South Australia and is 121 kilometres south-west of Adelaide. The island covers an area of approximately 4,300 sq km and is used primarily for conservation, tourism and agriculture. The agricultural lands still contain fragmented areas of uncleared native vegetation. The eastern part of the island has been settled and farmed since the nineteenth century. Most of the large scale clearing and settlement of the western half of the island occurred between 1947 to 1962 (Hanna, 1995). Sheep grazing for wool and meat is the major agricultural activity. Almost 30% of the island is within National Parks, Wilderness Protection Areas and Conservation Parks. The largest of these are in the southern and south-western areas of the island. A number of mechanisms are used in these reserves to cope with present and projected tourist numbers.

Biodiversity status

Kangaroo Island was isolated from the mainland approximately 9,500 years ago as the sea rose to its present level after the most recent glacial maximum which occurred about 18,000 years ago. The island has been isolated from the mainland for the majority of time since the Tertiary Period approximately 65 million years ago. As a result there are unique flora and fauna on the island as well as species common to the adjacent mainland. Aborigines disappeared from the island between 2,250 and 4,300 years ago for unknown reasons (Lampert, 1981). As a result, Kangaroo Island has experienced a different fire regime to the mainland since that time. This provides an interesting comparison with the mainland, as do other factors such as freedom from foxes and rabbits. Kangaroo Island is also fortunate in that much of the roadside remnant vegetation is relatively undisturbed.


There has been great change to the structure and distribution of vegetation on Kangaroo Island during the last 100 years. Extensive clearing has taken place, particularly in the east, and there has been a greater fire frequency since white settlement. Selective elimination of species has taken place, for example, the grasstree Xanthorrhoea was used for resin making.

Trees of significance on the island include the Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia). This species is almost entirely restricted to the eastern end of the island. The only other occurrence is in a few hectares on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The distribution of the species coincides with more productive agricultural land so has been extensively cleared. It was also favoured for the extraction of eucalyptus oil (NPWS, 1987). The Kangaroo Island Mallee Ash (Eucalyptus remota) is endemic to Kangaroo Island. It is found mainly in the western areas of the island. The E. remota open scrub alliance is considered to be poorly conserved (NPWS, 1987).

The Grasstree or Yacca (Xanthorrhoea tateana) is endemic to Kangaroo Island and the lower Fleurieu Peninsula and was extensively used in the Yacca gum stripping industry. The product, a resin, was used in the manufacture of varnish. The industry is in decline because of competition from synthetics and restrictions on vegetation clearance (NPWS, 1987). A Yacca management plan has recently been completed.

Davies (1992) listed the threatened plant species on Kangaroo Island. Species of consequence include Phebalium equestre, Olearia microdisca, Pomaderris halmaturina subsp halmaturina and Platysace heterophylla var tepperi.


The native fauna represent one of the main attractions for visitors to Kangaroo Island.

Marine mammals

The colony of Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) at Seal Bay on the southern coast of the island is one of the island's major tourist attractions. This species is considered to be rare under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. Estimates of the world population are between 9,300 and 11,700 individuals (Gales et al., 1994). Almost two-thirds of the world population occur in South Australia of which the Seal Bay population is significant. Seal Bay is the only breeding site on Kangaroo Island and it is one of only two or three breeding sites of the seal in South Australia (Robinson and Dennis, 1988).

Seal Bay consists of sandy beaches backed by dunes and low limestone cliffs in the east and rocky coves under sheer cliffs in the west. Most births take place in rocky coves in the western area of Seal Bay. The west is a Prohibited Area (declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972) within the whole area which is a Conservation Park. Up to one kilometre offshore is considered an Aquatic Reserve under the provisions of the Fisheries Act 1971 (Inns et al., 1979).

At Cape du Couedic there is a colony of the New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri); in January 1987, 454 individuals were counted (Robinson and Dennis, 1988). The fur seal prefers rough and rocky sites with caves and ledges as a haul out zone, contrasting with the preference of the sea lions to haul out on sandy beaches. There is another colony of the New Zealand fur seal at Cape Gantheaume; however, this is very rarely visited by tourists.

Several species of whale frequent the waters around Kangaroo Island. The Southern Right Whale visits the southern coast between June and October.

Fairy Penguins, Eudyptula minor, make their nests in the sandhills and cliffs along the coast. They can be seen after sunset along the rocks near the Penneshaw and Kingscote jetties as they return from fishing.

Large mammals

The Tamar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii) was once common in South Australia and Western Australia. It now has a range in South Australia restricted to one mainland location on Eyre Peninsula and several offshore islands (NPWS, 1987), and also occurs in south-west Western Australia and some offshore islands. They are now abundant only on Kangaroo Island (Inns et al., 1979).

The Kangaroo Island Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus) is a distinctive sub-species of the Western Grey Kangaroo, only found on Kangaroo Island. Both kangaroo and wallaby species are still common on the island with some farmers considering the wallaby a pest.

Small mammals

Only one specimen of the Common Marsupial Mouse (Sminthopsis aitkenii) has been collected from the island since two specimens were collected in 1969. There is one record of the Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tatoatafa) in 1939 but this is probably now extinct. The Short-nosed Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) is found in forest and woodland on Kangaroo Island (Inns et al., 1979). Two species of Pigmy Possum are found on the island; the South-western Pigmy Possum or Mundarda (Cercartetus concinnus) is common throughout the island while the Little Pigmy Possum (C. lepidus) is uncommon. Six species of bat have been recorded but only three of these are common (Inns et al., 1979).


The Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is found on the island.


There are 216 species reported on the island (Ford, 1979). Kangaroo Island is the only part of South Australia where the Glossy Black Cockatoo occurs regularly. It is restricted to Casuarina woodland and is the most critically endangered vertebrate on the island. The Cockatoo feeds on the seeds of the drooping Sheoak and nests in Sugar Gum hollows. The total island population consists of about 150 birds; of these most are males (DELM, 1993). The yellow tailed Black Cockatoo is common and flocks are often seen. The Crimson Rosella is regarded as an endemic sub-species.

Human activity has disrupted the birds on Kangaroo Island in a number of ways and was most likely responsible for the extinction of the Dwarf Emu. It was common when the island was discovered by Europeans in 1802. Other bird species have been introduced into Flinders Chase in the 1920's and 1930's; several of these survive. Other exotic species have colonised over the last century (Ford, 1979).

The Kingscote and American River area and the Cygnet River estuary provide habitats for a number of wading birds. There are only a few extensive areas of fresh and brackish water on Kangaroo Island. Examples include the Cygnet River and Murray's and Lashmar's Lagoons. An introduced species, the Cape Barren Goose, is the most significant waterbird (Ford, 1979).

Other animals

No reptile or amphibian species is unique to the island.

Introduced Australian species

The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) and the Common Ringtail (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) have all been successfully introduced to the island. They are found mainly in the western part of the island. The Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) is another introduced species. It is very common and larger than the mainland form. A number of birds have been introduced to the island including the Cape Barren Goose.

Other introduced species

Introduced species that have caused damage to native vegetation include the pig (Sus scrofa) and goat (Capra hircus). Domestic cats (Felis catus) and dogs (Canis familiaris) occur as feral animals. The cat has very likely had an influence on numbers and distribution of the smaller native animals. Pigs, goats and cats are found in several parks. Goats and pigs are concentrated in the western end of the island in Flinders Chase National Park.

Ecotourism, resource-use and conservation objectives

Current ecotourism

Kangaroo Island's permanent residents number about 4,000 (KISDC, 1995). The main service centres are Kingscote, with more than one thousand people, American River and Penneshaw. Accommodation for tourists is concentrated in these areas which are all located on the eastern side of the island. The west is serviced by the township of Parndana.

Ecotourism and nature based tourism on Kangaroo Island is providing an alternative source of income to the local community. During 1993 there were 120,000 visitors, of which approximately one-third of visits were day trips and two-thirds stayed one night or more (Crinion & Dyer, 1995). It is anticipated by the South Australian Tourist Commission that visitor numbers will reach 180,000 by the year 2000. It is possible that numbers might be as high as 270,000 if marketing and development of the island is effective.

The South Australian Tourism Commission aims to promote Kangaroo Island as a pre-eminent international ecotourism destination. A number of Commonwealth, State and local policies have been developed to address the tourism development of the island.

Existing Commonwealth policies relevant to tourism development on Kangaroo Island include:

Existing South Australian government policies include:

Prior to the arrival of car ferries from the mainland, most visitors relied on air transport and local island tourist buses. Visitor patterns have changed substantially since the introduction of car ferries and more recently with the introduction of the Super Flyte Ferry (Fast Ferry) transporting passengers only. This ferry transports visitors directly to the island from Glenelg and commenced operations in late 1994. This ferry service commenced operations with little prior notice to the island community and since it is capable of transporting 500 a day, it has the capacity to impact greatly on the type of tourism attracted to the island and the island community itself.

Island residents are concerned about the impact from the number of visitors this ferry is capable of delivering to the island. Tourism Kangaroo Island is responsible for the development, marketing and management of the tourist industry on the island. They have worked towards the development and marketing of an 'ecologically sustainable tourism model.' This encourages a nature based industry with a low environmental impact and high quality experience. Visitors are encouraged to spend longer than just a day trip. Tourism Kangaroo Island has developed the Kangaroo Island Tourism Development Policy. High delivery transport appears to be in conflict with the tourist model put forward in the Kangaroo Island Tourism Development Policy and the Sustainable Development Strategy for Kangaroo Island as it encourages:

There are a small number of ecotourism operations on the island. These are modest operations that cater for tourists seeking a highly interpreted, nature based experience. The market is generally aimed at the top end international market and at tourists who want visits of more than one day.

Tourists visit the island to experience the coastal scenery and associated recreation opportunities as well as the natural environment and abundant wildlife. Many of these attractions occur within existing National Parks, Conservation Parks and Wilderness Protection Areas, in particular Flinders Chase National Park and Cape Gantheaume, Seal Bay and Kelly Hill Conservation Parks.

An island park pass has been developed by the managers of the National and Conservation Parks to facilitate funding for park facility infrastructure and interpretation. Major developments in the parks are limited to high visitation areas, in particular Cape Borda, Cape du Couedic, Remarkable Rocks, the Rocky River Headquarters area and Seal Bay. Developments such as viewing platforms and footpaths are important in mitigating disturbance and damage to the sites and associated flora and fauna. Infrastructure is especially important in controlling the disturbance and allowing safe viewing at the seal colonies.

Flinders Chase National Park is the largest park on the island and represents 74,000 hectares of largely undisturbed habitat. Over 70,000 tourists visit this park every year from a wide range of nationalities, with most arriving by tourist coach or car (Halstead, 1993). Tourists visiting the western end of the island generally return to accommodation at the eastern end. Many island roads are unsealed. At Flinders Chase, Cape du Couedic, Remarkable Rocks and the ranger headquarters are the major destinations.

One of the problems with the increase of tourists to the island is increased pressure on sensitive sites. Camping in unsupervised areas can lead to environmental disturbance, such as increased litter, soil degradation and fire risk. About 4,000 people camp in Flinders Chase National Park every year, with most camping at the Rocky River Headquarters. There is some bush camping at Snake Lagoon, West Bay and Harveys Return. These areas only have basic facilities (Halstead, 1993). There are very few visitors who camp overnight along the western coast (about 200 per year). In off-reserve areas some camping occurs along the coast in both permitted, supervised areas and also in prohibited areas.

Seal Bay has attracted tourists for the last 40 years to view sea lions at close quarters on the beach. The area was dedicated as a Conservation Park in 1967. Visitor access facilities were constructed in the late 1970's. Guided tours with fees were introduced in 1987; the funds are used for management of the Island's parks. Seal Bay is promoted by the South Australian Tourist Commission and the Australian Tourist Commission as one of the major attractions in South Australia.

Up to 100,000 people visit Seal Bay each year with peak levels occurring in December and January. Of these, almost half are on the island as day visitors. During January 1995 there were 18,000 visitors to Seal Bay. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has a policy of no more than 100 visitors on the beach at any time. Guided tours are of 45 minutes duration and cater for private groups and bus tours of up to 30 people. Access to the main beach is by guided tour only. Some bus operators are trained by National Parks and are permitted to provide the required supervision of their own groups. The coastal areas adjacent to the main beach are Prohibited Areas.

In 1992 the Wool and Wilderness Interpretive Centre was developed by a community committee to provide information for tourists about the wool industry and remnant vegetation on the island.

Current conservation objectives

There are currently 16 National Parks and Conservation Parks and five Wilderness Protection Areas on the island. In total they cover about 30% of the island. The National and Conservation Parks and Wilderness Protection Areas are administered by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. All of the public lands are managed according to guidelines set out in management plans which have been developed for each area. As well, there are more than 100 heritage agreements listed on the island.

The South Australian Government introduced the Wilderness Protection Act in 1992. Five areas on Kangaroo Island have been identified as potential wilderness areas. The largest of these is Cape Gantheaume Wilderness Protection Area and covers an area of mallee covered dunes within the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park. The Wilderness Code of Management establishes principles of wilderness values, ecosystems, flora and fauna, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultural heritage; in addition to management of visitors, scientific research and fire in wilderness protection areas and zones (DELM, 1993).

Threats to biodiversity values

Ecotourism and nature based tourism pose a number of potential threats to the island's biodiversity values. Current tourist numbers already pose threats but these will be exacerbated as the number of visitors increase. The types of threats have been classified into those that result in habitat loss, habitat decline, utilisation of species and direct species loss. Tourism is a potential source of these threats but it may also provide substitute forms of land use that allow for a reduction in these threats. According to the Kangaroo Island Sustainable Development Strategy Tourism Working Paper, some of the implications of this tourist growth will be:

Ecosystem and habitat loss

Land clearance

Land clearance on the island was a major threat to loss of biodiversity prior to the Native Vegetation Management Act 1995 and the Native Vegetation Act 1991. Broadacre clearing has now effectively ceased. Clearing of vegetation for accommodation for visitors may pose a threat to biodiversity.

Roadside vegetation clearance is still taking place as the road network is upgraded to cater, in part, for the pressure of increased tourist numbers. Recently legal action was taken by Kangaroo Island Eco-Action against the District Council of Kingscote over their treatment of roadside vegetation. An area of endangered plant species was disturbed during roadworks even though the council was aware of their presence. The court action is still proceeding.

Roadside vegetation is often a refuge for a number of threatened species and is consequently an important habitat to be conserved. Vegetation in these areas is susceptible to damage and change as a result of vehicle movement, intrusion, pedestrian access, stock, fire and roadworks. There is evidence that clearance of roadside vegetation leads to the spread of dieback fungi, Phytophthora cinnamoni, by infected machinery and soil disturbance (Bishton et al 1994).

Ecosystem and habitat decline

Human visitation

Human visitation to sensitive sites has the potential to adversely affect biodiversity. People and vehicle movement along the coast can disturb breeding sites of birds and seal pups. A number of coastal species are threatened on the island. These include the Hooded Plover (Charadrius rubricollis) which lays its eggs on the beach and on sand dunes. Consequently they are especially vulnerable to traffic destroying their eggs. There are only about 150 birds on the island (Dennis, pers. com.). Vegetation is also susceptible to damage from trampling by stock and people, particularly in some fragile coastal ecosystems.

Dogs and cats have been responsible for a number of penguin deaths along the foreshore at Kingscote. These animals may belong to both visitors and locals, but, as tourist numbers increase, there is increased likelihood of this type of disturbance.

An example of an area that may be vulnerable to active use is Pelican Lagoon. It is very shallow and comprises extensive sand and mud tidal flats with a narrow connection to the sea. There are important areas of seagrasses (Posidonia and Zostera) in the lagoon which provides an environment for seabirds, waders and dolphins. The lagoon also provides a fish nursery and feeding ground (Flaherty, 1995) and is gazetted as an Aquatic Reserve within which the flora and fauna cannot be removed or the seabed disturbed or any matter discharged. At present very few boats use this area. Impacts that are likely to occur if there was an increase in the number of boats on the lagoon include:


Salinity has become a problem in areas where groundwater recharge has increased as a result of native vegetation being cleared and replaced with shallow rooted crops. In areas where clearing took place at early settlement, salinity problems appeared in the 1920's or earlier. During the 1960's and 1970's saline seepage appeared in low lying areas and many freshwater lagoons became salty. An example of this is Murray's Lagoon. This occurred about 20 years after the native vegetation was cleared (Hanna, 1995). Murray's Lagoon is a popular area to view water birds. Changes to the biodiversity of the lagoon may result if salinity of the lagoon increases. Measures to address dryland salinity on agricultural land in the Murray's Lagoon catchment may be necessary to alleviate elevated salt levels in the lagoon.


Tourism may lead to pollution of the environment in a number of ways:

If environmental standards were developed and state of the art techniques adopted to address these problems, biodiversity values could be maintained.

Introduced species (weeds and feral animals)

The sea barrier is important in hindering the spread of exotic species from the mainland. Non-Australian species that have been introduced to the island and cause damage to native vegetation include the pig (Sus scrofa) and goat (Capra hircus). Domestic cats (Felis catus) and dogs (Canis familiaris) also occur as feral animals. The cat has very likely had an influence on numbers and distribution of the smaller native animals. It is possible that the southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) and the Kangaroo Island endemic marsupial mouse (Sminthopsis aitkeni) may be at risk from predation by feral cats. The cat population hosts diseases such as sarcosporidiosis which is a threat to the local meat export industry (Copley, 1991). Pigs, goats and cats are found in several of the National and Conservation Parks. Goats and pigs are concentrated in the western end of the island.

Introduced plants spread from farm land into National Parks and Conservation Areas. Bridal creeper was introduced as an ornamental plant and is now becoming a threat to biodiversity on the island. It commonly spreads along the roadways and is very difficult to control. It is a major threat as it smothers the original vegetation and has the potential to change the biodiversity of large areas of land. Exotic plants can also be introduced to parks by visitors and park staff as well as vehicles and road-working machinery. The movement of native and feral animals across reserve and farmland boundaries also contributes to the spread of weeds. Several introduced species of birds have spread within the island as a result of the establishment of grasslands. Fragmentation of native vegetation by roads and paths may also be responsible for the spread of weeds.

Koala numbers have increased to such an extent in some areas they are now having an adverse effect on the rough barked manna gum.

Fire management

The Black Glossy Cockatoo is the most critically endangered vertebrate on the island. Accidental fires as a result of camping and burning on farm lands may be a serious threat to this bird as its habitat is adversely affected by extreme fire events. The Cockatoo feeds on the seeds of the Drooping Sheoak and nests in Sugar Gum hollows (DELM, 1993). One of the most important long-term influences on the Drooping Sheoak is the frequency of fire. An increase in fire frequency resulting from increased tourism may detrimentally influence the viability of Sheoak stands.

Direct species Loss

Kangaroo Island has lost a number of endemic species since European settlement, for example the Dwarf Emu. Direct species extinction may occur as a result of predation by cats, goats, pigs. Cats and dogs are responsible for the death of a number of penguins and their chicks in the Kingscote and Penneshaw areas. Dogs that attack penguins in urban areas are usually destroyed. Commercial and recreational fishermen pose a threat to the seal colonies as the seals compete for lobsters and fish and sharks. Fishermen have been known to shoot seals. Seals become entangled in lines and nets and drown or eventually die from monofilament line cutting into them (Robinson and Dennis, 1988).

Gene loss


Legal and illegal harvesting of flora and fauna may pose a threat to biodiversity values on the island. Harvesting includes commercial and recreational fishing, collection of intertidal organisms and collection of plant species, eg. Yacca (grasstree) for gum. The small brown azure butterfly (Ogyris otanes) is a very rare species (Fisher, 1993). It has a known range from north-west Victoria to south-west Western Australia. Most of the known habitats of the butterfly on both mainland South Australia and Kangaroo Island are within National or Conservation Parks. They are of value to illegal exporters.

Poaching of marron for the aquaculture industry poses a threat to biodiversity values particularly in National and Conservation Parks and Wilderness Protection Areas. Marron are an introduced species and poachers penetrate the wilderness areas in vehicles and on foot, trampling vegetation and introducing exotic weed species (Dennis, pers. com.).

Recreational and commercial fishing may affect biodiversity of the marine environment. Recreational fishermen are often concentrated along jetties on the island. Abalones and crayfish as well as fin fish and sharks are targets for commercial fishing operations. The effect of commercial and recreational fishing on the fish stocks utilised by the seal population of the island is unknown.


At present, approximately 100 permits are issued annually to cull native animals on agricultural holdings. Permit records show wallabies make up 10,000 of the known carcasses, kangaroos between 1,000 (Vickery, pers com.) and possums make up approximately 2,500 (Dennis, pers. com.). The animal carcasses are left to rot where they are culled. Sport shooting is not permitted in the parks on the island.

Animal feeding

Pelican feeding occurs as a tourist attraction at American River. Tourists are discouraged from feeding wallabies and kangaroos in Flinders Chase National Park.

Existing regulations, incentive instruments and mechanisms

Responsible management agencies

Private land on Kangaroo Island is administered by Kingscote and Dudley councils. National Parks, Wilderness Protection Areas and Conservation Parks are administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. A tourism policy was developed by the South Australian Tourism Commission in 1991 after consultation with the local community. This was subsequently revised in 1994. It concluded that "Kangaroo Island will target high benefit-low impact-markets which are environmentally aware, enjoy nature, wildlife and retreat experiences and who like to learn about and directly experience the culture and environment of the places they visit."

Landcare on the island involves 13 groups and covers almost 60% of the island. It was initiated in 1989 (Hanna, 1995).

A $1 million program to address detrimental impacts on the Kangaroo Island environment was introduced in 1993. The program has included the development of formal camping areas, toilet facilities and shelters with gas barbeques, defined parking areas and access walkways and lookouts (SA SoE, 1993).

The introduction of the Native Vegetation Management Act 1985 and the Native Vegetation Act 1991 has meant that broadscale clearing of vegetation has virtually ceased on Kangaroo Island. The 1991 Act provides incentives and assistance to landholders to preserve native vegetation. Landholders are not automatically entitled to compensation if they apply for a clearing permit.

Management of the Seal Bay sea lion colony has been undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service since 1972. In 1977 a Management Plan was developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to minimise the effects of visitors on the sea-lions, particularly during the breeding season (Robinson and Dennis, 1988). Prior to this, access and facilities were largely the responsibility of Kingscote District Council. During that period "ad hoc development of the area resulted in considerable erosion of the cliff and sand dune systems, with people inadvertently clambering through significant pup refuge areas" (Robinson and Dennis, 1988).

The Management Plan recommended the relocation of roads and car parks, alteration of walking access routes and the provision of observation areas. These developments were opened in 1981 (Robinson and Dennis, 1988). As the visitor facilities are about 2 km east of the seal colony, people are more inclined to visit the seals for a short period. This enables a "high volume visitation with a minimum impact on the animals" (Robinson and Dennis, 1988). By 1985 the number of visitors to Seal Bay had reached 35,000 per year (Vickery, 1994) and additional strategies were required to manage the area. To control numbers and protect the animals on the beach, guided tours by rangers and trained tour operators were introduced in 1987 and entry was restricted to those tourists with a guide (Vickery, 1994). Ticket sale revenue enabled the improvement of infrastructure at Seal Bay, including a visitors, reception centre and boardwalk to the beach. At peak times it has been necessary to regulate the traffic flow between the picnic area and the beach.

In addition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has proposed a number of new strategies at Seal Bay to cope in the short term with increasing visitor numbers. These include:

There are two main objectives for the management of Seal Bay:

Potential incentive instruments and mechanisms

The island community is generally in agreement that the most suitable form of tourism for the island is low impact, nature based tourism with longer visits providing business and employment for a broad spectrum of the local community. Ecotourism and nature based tourism can be seen as an opportunity to provide funding for biodiversity conservation and an incentive to the community to maintain biodiversity values.

A long-term vision for the island is being addressed by the development of the Kangaroo Island Sustainable Development Strategy. Baseline information is required to assist decision making. Ecotourism and nature based tourism can be used to place a value on biodiversity. Funds can be used for biodiversity research, protection and infrastructure for tourists.

Ecosystem and habitat loss, and ecosystem and habitat decline

Policy opportunity 1
Information and education

As better information is made available for tourists, tour operators, farmers and the council on the importance of biodiversity conservation, then it may be expected that the importance of biodiversity in a given area may become more apparent and valued. Methods of linking urban and rural dwellers should also be encouraged. Information for the tourist industry could be made available through a wide variety of outlets that include:

An interpretive centre is being constructed at Seal Bay by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. If an interpretive centre for visitors at the ferry terminal was developed to provide information for tourists on arrival, it could be used to highlight the importance of biodiversity on the island. A levy charged to visitors arriving on the island could fund such a centre.

'Hands on' experience is an excellent way of educating visitors and the local community about the importance of biodiversity. For example, visits to natural areas could be combined with tree planting on degraded sites. Research programs already in place at the Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre such as the echidna watch program could be promoted. Experts from a range of disciplines could be brought to the island to work with the community on a range of projects.

Policy opportunity 2
Kangaroo Island management body

At present the Kangaroo Island Sustainable Development Strategy is being drafted by the island community and State government agencies. For this to be adopted successfully there is a requirement for a highly effective local government administration with good communication links with State agencies. At present the island is administered by two local councils. Restructuring of the island's management bodies into one organisation could better facilitate the coordination of new developments within standardised island environmental guidelines. This organisation would also be responsible for planning, infrastructure and communication with State departments and be ultimately responsible for the conservation of biodiversity on the island. In general it is considered important for local government to effectively represent the community and have the capacity to coordinate effectively with State and Commonwealth agencies.

Policy opportunity 3
Off-reserve ranger interpretation and extension officers

If off-reserve rangers and extension officers were employed they could provide information and policing at sensitive sites, and could collect camping fees in off-reserve areas. At present camping fees are often not collected in off-reserve areas. A Fishing Licence Officer could be funded to patrol boat ramps, jetties and fishing grounds to disseminate information, provide advice and enforce a fishing permit system. Camping fees and fishing licences could be used to fund these positions.

Policy opportunity 5
Enhancement of existing community grant schemes

There are 13 active Landcare groups on the island. It is possible to extend the function of these groups by providing additional funding and expert advice to conserve biodiversity. Funding is provided to replant and fence vegetation in critical areas, but the perspective is likely to be focused on land degradation issues. Land degradation and biodiversity protection are often integrated issues and benefit may be gained by a joint approach to both issues. Landcare and Dunecare promote a sense of responsibility for land conservation by giving communities an opportunity to deal with land use problems. It may also be possible to encourage visitors, particularly from urban areas, to participate in these projects.

Community grants could be available to groups or landholders to re-establish vegetation in particular areas. Commonwealth grants similar to Landcare grants could be made to the local council and non-government organisations to clean up littered, polluted or degraded areas. An example would be dune walkways over frequently used, unstable dune areas.

Policy opportunity 5
Feral cat eradication programs

Feral cats are a problem on the island and indeed across mainland Australia. Kangaroo Island is seen by the community to provide an ideal opportunity to be an area free of feral cats. If this was achieved it could be promoted along with the rabbit and fox free status to indicate to tourists the unique qualities of the island as a destination for nature based tourism. Possible methods of cat control might include:

It may be advantageous for the community to eventually have a cat ban on the island with the aim of eradicating all cats on the island. If visitors realise Kangaroo Island is making an effort to reduce the cat population, they may realise the potential threat to wildlife that cats pose in their own mainland areas.

Policy opportunity 6
Regulation, zoning and minimum impact codes

The introduction of regulations and codes to control the impact of activities on the island will probably be necessary as tourist numbers increase. These might include:

At Seal Bay there are prohibited zones to provide protection to the seals in the breeding coves and nursery areas. These areas are signposted and enforced with explanations as to the reasons for the restrictions. There is also another zone adjacent to the main beach called a 'sea-lion snooze zone.' This provides an area for the seals away from visitors and strong winds and also protects the foredunes from erosion. It also protects visitors from accidentally walking into dozing sea-lions on the vegetated dunes (Robinson and Dennis, 1988).

An Aquatic Reserve was proclaimed under the Fisheries Act in 1971 with amendments added with the Fisheries Act 1982. This protects the area adjacent to breeding coves from fishing, boating and swimming and in the eastern areas of Seal Bay from fishing (Robinson and Dennis, 1988).

Clearing regulations are applicable to roadside vegetation on the island. At present the vegetation is under the control of a new management plan developed as a result of the legal action against the Kingscote Council. Regulations could be put in place to protect this vegetation from clearance.

A decrease in speed limits at night in target areas may be required to help reduce the number of road kills. Signs alerting drivers could be erected.

Legislation may be required to bind all parties to environmental impact assessments for development or change to areas on the island. This would ensure biodiversity factors are considered before any activity commences.

Policy opportunity 7
Charges and levies

A special environmental levy, similar to the per capita charge levied by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, may be applicable for each tourist arriving on the island. This could be collected by the island ferry operators and the island airlines as a ferry tax or an airport tax. Local residents would hold an exemption pass. To encourage longer stays, a flat rate entry fee or a reducing daily rate could be charged. However, the levy should not be used as the primary basis to exclude visitors on the basis of cost. This approach is considered inequitable and disadvantages low income earners. The levy should only be charged at a level that reflects the cost of services and amenities provided.

The visitor funds could be used to:

Commercial businesses are granted licences to operate within the parks. These rights could be offered under a tender process to raise funding for biodiversity conservation. This process would need to consider the needs of small local operators and care may need to be taken to avoid large businesses gaining monopoly control by accepting short-term losses.

At present, visitors entering the National Parks for guided tours and camping are required to pay a fee. An Island Pass is available for $15 per adult; this entitles visitors access to all Park guided tours and two weeks camping. The introduction of entry fees by parks allows the employment of information guides in the parks. The fee also provides facilities for visitors such as toilets and fireplaces. In areas sensitive to fire, fees could pay for gas cooking fires in the camping areas. The guiding system at Seal Bay provides funds for facility upgrades and employment of interpretation staff. Seal Bay was the first "user pays" system in South Australia and initially the proposal was heavily criticised. Funds collected at Seal Bay amounted to nearly $250,000 during 1993 (Vickery, 1994).

Policy opportunity 8
Provision of infrastructure

It is important to note that visitor pressure is not based solely on the number of visitors; it may be determined by a relationship that includes the number of visitors, their behaviour and the protecting or controlling infrastructure. At Seal Bay new infrastructure is being developed to cope with increasing tourist numbers in the short term. An additional boardwalk will be constructed to allow tourists to view the sea lions without having to walk on the beach. The beach tours will still operate for tourists seeking a tour with a greater degree of interpretation.

There may be grounds to provide grants to local/State authorities for the provision of such infrastructure to protect a site from degradation. Ultimately, however, consideration will need to be given to the type of experience that is desired by the visitor. Infrastructure may provide for increased visitor numbers but may limit the type of experience available. It would be expected that at some stage absolute numbers may need to be constrained.

Policy opportunity 9
Restrictions on tourist numbers

When tourist numbers are such that they are likely to adversely affect sensitive sites, particularly in peak season, a ceiling on visitor numbers may have to be introduced. This could be implemented on either a first come, first served basis, a ballot system, or on the basis of price. There are grounds on the basis of equity not to use price as a method of exclusion. Opportunities may also exist to redistribute some of the visits to off-peak seasons with special packages such as discounting or promotion of alternative experiences. This provides other benefits in the form of longer employment periods for casual staff and improved utilisation of accommodation facilities.

Policy opportunity 10
Monitoring and guiding

A regular census of the sea-lion population at Seal Bay has been carried out by National Parks and Wildlife field staff over the last 25 years. More recently 'head counts' of sea-lions on the Main Beach have been conducted over 35 days of the peak tourist season, December and January 1985-87. The results showed that there was little change in the numbers of sea-lions on the beach in response to visitors; in fact there was an average increase of 33 animals arriving on the beach during the day at the peak of the tourist season (Robinson and Dennis, 1988). Since this study was completed there has been a large increase in visitors to Seal Bay. Further monitoring and a study need to be undertaken to look at current tourism effects on the sea lion population and the effects the proposed new boardwalk may have on the colony. The fur seal colony at Cape du Couedic could be included in this study as the new stairway at Admirals Arch takes tourists down the side of the cliff to a landing in close proximity to a pup refuge area.

Community monitoring of species and habitats may prove a worthwhile method of creating a biodiversity inventory. Schemes in other parts of Australia include Saltwatch and Waterwatch. Recreational fishermen could be encouraged to record the species and quantity of their catch and hand in their results as they leave the island.

Residents of the local community are employed by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources as guides for a range of tours. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources provide training for these staff. More use could be made of this system particularly in off-reserve areas with staff being used as information officers at the ferry terminal and along coastal camping and fishing areas.

Policy opportunity 11
Ecotourism accreditation

If ecotourism operators were licensed and accredited, a star rating indicating standard of service could be adopted with the National Parks logo used where appropriate. Codes of Conduct might be adopted which include criteria and standards of Best Practice for all aspects of tour operation to encourage appropriate interaction between operators, clients and the environment. Training for tour operators on site could be a worthwhile way of training operators unable to attend formal training courses.

Incentive to gain accreditation can be achieved whereby accredited operators are required to pay lower insurance premiums than operators who are without accreditation. This type of approach has been negotiated between the Victorian Tourist Operators Association (VTOA) and an insurance company. The discount is available to some operators outside Victoria and there may be merit in facilitating the operation of such a scheme nationally.

Visits to high impact tourist areas such as Seal Bay should be accompanied by a ranger or an accredited trained tourist operator. Income from accreditation courses and licences can go towards financing biodiversity conservation.

Policy opportunity 12

The Tourism Promotion Board may be able to assist small tour operators by providing funding for cooperatives. This may enable small operators to promote their operations at a reduced cost so they are able to compete with the large tour operators, particularly off-island tour operators. This may also allow promotion of longer stays on the island, based on quality experience.

Policy opportunity 13
Charges on discharges

Sewage discharges from tourist developments along the coastal areas can have a large impact on biodiversity values in an area by elevating nutrient levels. Charges on the amount of effluent discharged into the ocean or into sewerage works could be instigated.

Kingscote is serviced by household septic systems whereby overflow from tanks is directed into a common effluent scheme and settled in ponds at Kingscote. Other settlements are serviced only by household septic tanks with runover spilling into the ground, making its way into the groundwater and then into the ocean.

If biocycle systems were introduced, then the provision of a rebate, subsidy or grant would assist in encouraging their use. Information should be provided to local councils on alternative methods of effluent disposal. Regulations may have to be introduced requiring tertiary treatment of effluent, particularly in peak tourist seasons. The building code may need modification so that new developments use environmentally sound techniques to dispose of effluent.

Policy opportunity 14
Management plans

Initial assessments and management plans should be required for any new major developments and change of land use on the island. A good example of this would be an initial assessment and subsequent management plan if an operation such as the boat cruise proposal at Pelican Lagoon was to be put forward.

Management plans may be required as a precondition to development or sub-division approval including upgrades and widening of the road network.

Bioregional planning could be developed for the whole island.

Policy opportunity 15
Subsidies and grants

To encourage development on cleared rather than uncleared land, it would be valuable to encourage willing landholders to provide accommodation for ecotourism and nature based tourism. This would be of particular importance to areas in close proximity to the National and Conservation Parks. Commonwealth grants could be a method of encouragement, with grant conditions requiring promotion of biodiversity conservation. It would then be unnecessary to develop new resorts in previously undisturbed land adjacent to and within parks.

Policy opportunity 16
Performance bonds

Performance bonds may be applicable to organisations wishing to develop certain areas on the island. Developers would be required to lodge security to cover the costs of site rehabilitation if unforeseen environmental problems occur during development. This should provide an incentive for developers to work within specific environmental guidelines.

Policy opportunity 17

A reward system could be set up for people who provide early warning about incentives that appear to be failing. Other rewards might be made to tour operators who make an effort to educate their clients on the importance of biodiversity conservation and conduct tours in a sustainable manner. Awards should be given in consultation with the island community.

Policy opportunity 18
Limits of Acceptable Change study

If a Limits of Acceptable Change study was funded it would be able to monitor and manage visitor impacts in areas with significantly high biodiversity. According to the Kangaroo Island Sustainable Development Strategy (KISDC, 1995), this study should consider:

Direct species loss

Policy opportunity 19
Endangered species programs

An endangered species program has been put in place to conserve the Glossy Black Cockatoo. Other programs may have to be developed to cope with increasing pressure on island biodiversity.

Policy opportunity 20
Corporate sponsorship

If corporate sponsors were attracted to sponsor biodiversity conservation or an endangered species program it would be a method of attracting funding. The solar powered building at Seal Bay is sponsored by Solarcare. Companies could pay for the privilege of using as their logos, for example, the Glossy Black Cockatoo, Australian Sea Lion or the Hooded Plover.

Gene loss

Policy opportunity 21
Native species industry

At present the kangaroos and wallabies culled on the island are left as rotting carcasses. Culling should be undertaken by licensed shooters. A system should be set up to export this meat or provide it to local restaurants. Meat could be vacuum packaged so that tourists could return home with it. Tourists could be encouraged to purchase kangaroo meat or products whilst visiting the island. Packaging of any products should include appropriate information for consumers that outlines the sustainable nature of the industry, to promote awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding the use of native species. Harvesting should not be genetically selective. A native species harvesting industry is being investigated by the Kangaroo Island Sustainable Development Strategy.

Relocation of juveniles to the mainland could be used as a method of addressing the problem of excess Koalas.

Preferred mix of incentive instruments and mechanisms

The effects of ecotourism and nature based tourism on biodiversity on Kangaroo Island are likely to be best addressed by a mix of strategies. This study highlights a number of strategies that operate at different levels of government and levels of incentive and regulation. A suggested mix of incentives and mechanisms that target factors such as institutional change, regulation, education, specific threats and community empowerment follows:


Kangaroo Island has some very important areas with high biodiversity value. These areas are prime destinations for nature based tourism and ecotourism. Tourism is being encouraged as an important island industry and tourist numbers are projected to increase substantially over the next ten years. To conserve island biodiversity values a number of mechanisms will be required to cope with this expected increase in visitor pressure.

Almost 30% of the island is under National and Conservation Parks and Wilderness Protection Areas. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has introduced mechanisms to protect biodiversity in these areas. The remainder of the island is administered by two local councils. Some of these off-reserve areas, particularly adjacent to the coast, may be threatened as tourist numbers increase. The introduction of a mix of mechanisms particularly for the coastal fringe will be required to conserve biodiversity in off-reserve areas.


These notes have benefited from discussions and input from staff in the South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the community of Kangaroo Island. Whilst responsibility for all statements remains with the consultants, we would particularly like to thank Fraser Vickery, Terry and Helen Dennis and Rob Ellis for their input.


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