QUESTION: Future Jobs Fund grant to AWC

During Question Time, Mark asked the Treasurer about the Future Jobs Fund grant given to the Australian Walking Company to develop 'luxury tent-style eco-sensitive accommodation' on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail within Flinders Chase National Park. 

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The leave I sought was to ask the Treasurer a question about grants under the Future Jobs Fund. In February last year, the former government announced a number of grants under the Future Jobs Fund, including a grant of $832,000 to the Australian Walking Company to develop 'luxury tent-style eco-sensitive accommodation and other facilities on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail', which is within the Flinders Chase National Park. In August last year, the new Treasurer issued a media release which stated:

"After receiving legal advice, Mr Lucas said the former government’s offers would be honoured but he had asked treasury officials to seek terms and conditions with grant recipients, where possible, to offer additional security for taxpayers."

According to the SA Tenders and Contracts website a contract was executed by the present government with the Australian Walking Company on 1 December last year for a grant of $916,000 for the operation of walking tours and the construction of accommodation facilities. Two weeks prior to that date, on 15 November last year, the Australian Walking Company lodged a number of development applications with the State Planning Commission for accommodation, including one for nine permanent buildings—so not tents—on coastal cliffs near Sandy Creek in the Flinders Chase National Park, which is at least three kilometres as the crow flies from the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail and which will require the construction of 10 kilometres of new roads and trails within the national park to service the development.

My questions of the Treasurer are:

1. What steps has the Treasurer taken to ensure that the proposed development is consistent with the original intent of the grant, which was to provide accommodation on the wilderness trail not three kilometres from it?

2. Will the Treasurer publish the full terms and conditions of the grant to the Australian Walking Company?

3. Will the Treasurer request his colleagues, the Minister for Planning and the Minister for Environment, to publish the development applications for these new private buildings within Flinders Chase National Park, because the development applications are currently being kept secret?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am very happy to see what additional information I can provide to the honourable member within the constraints that may or may not exist within the terms of the funding formula or grant that was provided. The honourable member correctly quotes me, I suspect, in saying that in general terms the new government's position was that where there had been either a firm contract provided or a firm commitment given by the former government we would honour those particular commitments.

So I suspect that from the new government's viewpoint, this particular one, although I don't have much detailed recollection of this particular one—there were so many of them; it's pretty hard to keep track of. I am quite happy to seek further advice from my department and others in relation to the questions the member has raised and bring back a reply as soon as I can.

On 3 April 2019, the following reply was provided - 

The Hon Rob Lucas MLC: "I have been advised of the following:

1. I am advised that the Australian Walking Company's development approved by the former Labor Government is consistent with the original intent of the grant which was around creation of employment (30 FTEs).

I have been advised that the project approved under the previous government never contemplated that the accommodation would be on the trail and the current proposal is consistent with that intent.

In relation to the claim that there are now 10 kilometres of new road and trails, I have been advised that this is not the case. The project always required some level of trails to be developed and the "roads" to be developed are better classified as narrow access tracks that can only be accessed by quad bikes or small vehicles. I am told that the tracks utilise existing disturbance where possible and are to be made of mulched vegetation to minimise soil disturbance.

I can further advise that:

  • The structures envisaged for the development and their relative
    impact on the ground is consistent with the structures including
    luxury eco tents that were previously envisaged.
  • There are now two less structures than under the original
    proposal, and in total, the structures are now smaller than what
    was originally envisaged.

2. The full terms and condition for the grant are stated in the grant deed with the Australian Walking Company Pty Ltd. The grant deed is published in full on the SA Tenders and Contracts website in line with the Government's policy for the disclosure of government contracts.

3. I am advised that the respective development applications are being processed in accordance with the relevant and established statutory requirements of the Development Act 1993"