kangaroo island shellfish
vision for wharf land base
Our vision is to grow our resilient Positive Impact Aquaculture business model by integrating tourism, aquaculture, R&D and innovation on our land base at American River wharf. This vision will help to activate the American River wharf precinct consistent with the Ki Council Town Centre Project Plan. It also supports the Kangaroo Island ethos and brand, contributes to the local economy, helps create a sense of place, embraces a sense of future and our maritime history. Read on to learn more about:
In February 2022, we sent a letter to all residents in American River providing more information around our business, the wharf area and seeking feedback on our vision. The following frequently asked questions relate to that letter and other questions that have been asked along the way. We intend to update this page as a work in progress as more community questions are raised.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you do on the farm land base?
We are primarily an oyster farm which like all farms requires operational storage. We are also a research entity focused on positive impact aquaculture and multi species farming e.g. mussels, seaweed, scallops etc. We invite our American River community to come along, free of charge, to one of our popular daily farm tours to learn more about what we do such as grading oysters. Departing from the Oyster Farm Shop at 10.30am bookings essential please.
What is your vision for the future?
We have a strategic plan from 2021 - 2025 which encompasses a vast array of projects. Regarding the land base our draft high level, concept plan which was presented to council in July 2021 can be found here.
Town centre amenity
Why don't you just tidy up the yard?
Oyster operations need a yard to store equipment this might include broken bags and pallets that are fixed and reused. Our lease with KI Council requires that we fence the perimeter of the leased area to improve the amenity and hide the operational requirements from public view. We agree the fence is the solution and we want to complete fencing of the area appropriately. Then we can landscape, place appropriate tourism signage in line with Town Centres plan, and generally improve the overall visual impact. It is a key pillar of our strategic plan to improve the improve the amenity of the area and integrate with the Town Centre Plan .
Why haven't you completed the fence yet?
Under our current lease agreement with KI Council, we are required to fence the entire boundary of our leased area (see below) with cyclone mesh, shade cloth and vegetation.
We don't believe that this will be well received by the community and have proposed to Council to fence a smaller footprint to ensure community access and to replace the old mesh fence along Tangara Drive with a more attractive fence that compliments the shared vision with Town Centre project plans. We have been working more recently with the Town Centre Project and KI Council to fulfill this obligation.
Recently we removed the old shade cloth and dead vegetation to commence this process but unfortunately, progress stalled due to uncertainty about the location of our boundaries and style of fence created by the following:
Awaiting approval of Town Centre Plans and impacts on community use and access
Planning approval required for replacement fence due to its position in a flood zone
Question over location of boundary considering Govt and Council discussions regarding changes to accommodate levy bank on other side (hopefully this has now been resolved)
Concern over security of tenure on the leased area (e.g., are we going to be asked to move boundaries at our cost?)
Resolution of underground power lines installed through our leased area with no updates to our leasing arrangements
Ownership and obligations around the new fence
We are committed to working with KI Council and when they can provide us with clarity on these issues, we look forward to getting back to our plan of an attractive wood/corrugated iron style fence with landscaping in line with town centre concept plans. However, if the uncertainty continues for much longer, we could purchase some new shade cloth to put back up and seal off any other parts of the fence line not yet completed.
As we stated in our recent letter to the community;
we understand the angst from our community and the requirement to improve the amenity of our business in, what is now, the Town Centre. This is a very high priority for us to ensure we maintain our high standard of professionalism consistent with our iconic brand. We apologise for the state that it is currently in, and like most others in the community, we want to proceed with fencing the area appropriately. Then we can landscape, place appropriate tourism signage in line with Town Centres plan, and generally improve the overall visual impact as soon as possible.
Is there a court ruling attached to the development of the new grading shed when it was built?
Yes there is a court ruling attached to the development approval for the new shed to be built back in 2004. We don't believe that this relates to pre-existing storage use (e.g Raptis) and other areas such as Cliff Hawkins Shed (super phosphate storage). However, we appreciate the need to hide storage. particularly since the Development Plan has changed and the area is now in Town Centre zone.
For the record, we were unaware of this ruling when we purchased the business as it was not declared on the FORM 5001 Business Sale agreement.
When we discovered this existed in 2013 we proceeded immediately to work with DEW and KI Council to resolve the issue. A fence was the solution provided by KI Council to improve the amenity of the area whilst still enabling the oyster operation to run.
Security of tenure
Why do you believe you don't have security of tenure under a lease with KI Council?
For some background, upon acquisition of the farm in 2008, we had a 12-month rolling lease on the land with DPTI. Since then, we have sought security of tenure from DPTI/Marine and Harbors and Crown Land. This area was not the Town Centre at the time and was not under care and control of KI Council.
After 7 years of bureaucratic process, in 2014 we received an offer from Crown Lands for a long-term lease, which we subsequently turned down when a ‘better deal’ was offered by KI council if rededicated to their care and control with the stipulation that the land be leased to KI Shellfish on a long term lease to provide security of tenure. This ‘better deal’ has since shown to be flawed in several ways, including the error of the land being put into Community land register instead of Operational. This land was never meant to be Community Land (that was the RIG Shed). The process required to provide us with security of tenure by requesting the waiver for it to be retained as Operational land was never done. We are following up the process that led to this error and are awaiting records to be sourced. Other related issues are:
lease has an illegal charging structure which has still not been updated
power cables were put through the property without any liaison and no follow up paperwork
we can still be asked to leave with 12 months’ notice and we have nowhere else to go
the stipulation to provide us with security of tenure has not been met
During the statewide 3 year spat shortage(2018-2021), the SA Oyster Growers Association requested that all Councils with oyster farms in their region consider a waiver of rates/lease fees for 18/19 and 19/20 due to the devastating impact this shortage would have on the industry. Even the State Government waived aquaculture lease and licence fees for 18/19 and 19/20 in recognition of the hardship oyster farms were facing. The KI Council agreed to waive 18/19 lease fees but not 19/20 and we were forced to enter a payment plan which had to be paid back within the same 12 month period putting the business under financial strain. If we had gone to the wall and not paid, we could have been forced to close and leave the area. This arrangement obviously does not provide security of tenure.
Why did you apply for an unsolicited proposal to buy the land?
When we raised our security of tenure issues again in 2019, we were advised of the opportunity to apply for an unsolicited proposal for acquisition of land, which we did in October 2019. Since then, we have been following the SA Govt process as required and as advised by our Case Manager. It has been a long and extensive process. In our USP we identified our objectives as:
To acquire freehold through a direct sale, a section of lot 101 Hundred of Haines (as identified in attachment), to enable investment in an innovative project that provides an integrated Operational Shellfish base, Tourist/Visitors centre and R&D facility.
Creating a resilient business model for future threats and disasters, as well as recovery from effects of bushfires, covid-19 and spat shortages.
Building on successful and continuous use as oyster farm base (and tourist icon), maritime usage and in line with Council development objectives.
Creating jobs, putting American River back on the map (disaster recovery),
Growing aquaculture industry on KI and SA, and feeding into positive impact aquaculture - one of the fastest growing industries across the world.
We believe there are special circumstances to be considered for this proposal which we have detailed below based around the long term historic use, current lease agreement, history, disaster recovery and the unique situation within our region.
Why should you get to buy Community Land over anyone else?
It was never Community Land historically and has been placed on the Community Land Register in error. The land was only ever put into care and control of KI Council with our agreement and on the condition that it was leased long term to KI Shellfish to provide security of tenure. The process required to keep it as operational land was not completed and by default the land went into the Community land register.
This land has been dedicated by Crown Land for marine and harbor purposes and has been used for these purposes since settlement; super phosphate storage, boat storage, Raptis & Son aquaculture equipment storage and oyster processing and storage.
There is nowhere else for us to go. As many locals say to us, this is the only place and the best place for the oyster sheds.
What happens if you own the land freehold and then sell the business?
The land has been dedicated by Crown Land for Marine and Harbor purposes only.
In addition, any development by future owners is driven by SA Govt development plan rules.
It is worth noting that the area is in a coastal flooding zone and any development on the site will be required to mitigate such risks. .
Also, in our USP application, we proposed the following to alleviate concerns:
"We would like to confirm here there is no intention of this being a ‘speculative investment’ in regard to this land
acquisition. We would be happy to provide something in writing here if there is an industry process around this.
Something like “agreeing not to subdivide or sell off within a period of time, unless related to permitted use”. However,
we would expect to be able to consider future investors within the permitted use, changes in ownership etc, as part of
business expansion or changes to conditions."
Why haven't you consulted with your community about your intentions til now?
We have been following instructions from our DEW Case Manager and the Unsolicited Proposal process which says:
Unfortunately, we have had to wait 12+ months for Council to provide advice to Crown Lands before we were able to communicate with our community despite some individuals agitating for us to break this compliance. As you can imagine this has been very difficult for us being involved in town strategic planning processes, collaborating with local businesses and with these agitators.
How much are you going to get the land for?
We wish to purchase land that has been previously purposely dedicated for our use, at market price which will
allow us to invest, and be investment ready to grow our uniquely situated operation and improve the precinct for
the community, visitors and business.
section 271 (farm land base)
event history timeline
We have created these timelines to the best of our ability and will update any inaccuracies brought to our attention.
We would love people to contribute to this as it will feed into our tourism experience
American River wharf is built for marine and harbor purposes
Ketches moved gypsum, vehicles, wool, livestock, feed, general freight, etc. and brought goods to Kangaroo Island from Port Adelaide.
Bulk Super Phosphate Storage Shed leased by CH Duffy
Wharf area licensed to KI Fuel Services
Loading ramp and GI shed leased until 1992
Jeremy Boots leased shed from CH Duffy for oyster farm purposes
Cliff Hawkins purchased Super Phosphate shed from CH Duffy and took over lease from DPTI, used for storage of boat trailers
RAPTIS & Son utilise yard between Super Phosphate Shed and wharf entrance for marine and aquaculture equipment storage
Don Moyle buys oyster farm from Jeremy Boots, calls it Oyster Cove Shellfish and leases Super Phosphate Shed from Cliff Hawkins
Don applies for development approval to build new purpose build oyster processing shed
KI Council conducts a review of options available around American River and only supports wharf area
Development approval appealed resulting in court ruling over approved development
March - Urban Design Framework - American River Township Growth Master Plan Report Stage 1 prepared for KI Council by Hassell
Ken and Amanda Rowe purchase the farm operation and call it Kangaroo Island Shellfish (KISH)
12 month rolling licence with DPTI for the area (KISH owns new shed infrastructure)
KISH rents old super phosphate shed from Cliff Hawkins on also leased from DPTI
No knowledge of any court ruling, not declared on Form 5001 Business Sale Agreement
Kangaroo Island Shellfish commences negotiations with DPTI and DEW to gain security of tenure for business
July 1-50 year storm event which wipes out half of oyster farm in water
A few locals and staff volunteer to assist in the recovery
October Oyster Farm Shop established across the road as business not permitted to retail on wharf under the development plan at that time. This pivot was to help the business to diversify its revenue streams and keep staff employed after the storm
Crown agree to resume land and offer long-term lease to KI Shellfish.
KI Council joins negotiations with DEWA and KISH and offers long term lease with "security of tenure" at a cheaper rate. This was implemented for the sole purpose and on condition of long term lease with KI Shellfish
KI Shellfish purchases Super Phosphate shed from Cliff Hawkins and DPTI lease is transferred to KI Shellfish
Council resolves to provide Project Independence a secure long term lease but no motion for KI Shellfish in council minutes
Complaint received by KISH re untidiness – oyster pot storage close to bike walking track, this results in the discovery of Development Court ruling attached to processing shed which was not identified in the Business Sale Agreement Form 5001 v8.10.05 “Existing orders notices or requirements affecting the Business or Premises: none known”
DEW advise KI Council in writing of process to transfer care and control of land for US Schooner Independence Project, no documented request found as yet for land leased by KI Shellfish
KI Council resolves to accept land and moves that they will enter into a lease with AR Shellfish and Rebuild Independence
KI Council lease negotiations commence with KI Shellfish. Lease signed 1/1/2015.
Storm event damages old Super Phosphate Shed resulting in insurance rebuild on same footprint.
Town Centre Zone moved to wharf area (Consolidated KI Development Plan)
Land used by KI Shellfish put into Community Land register in error along with RIG land when should have been Operational for oyster farm marine and harbor purpose.
Council lease requires entire leased area be fenced. KI Shellfish do not comply on the basis that the community will not be happy if the entire area was to be fences as it would hinder access foreshore and wharf area
Still awaiting documented evidence and resolution of this issue from KI Council
Certificate of Title changed to reflect KI Council as custodians Edition 2 Crown Record Allotment 101 in Hundred of Haines
POMMS hit Tasmanian oyster farms. SA Industry faces 2-3 year spat shortage
PIRSA waives lease and licence fees for 18/19
SA Oyster Growers Association requests all Councils with oyster farming contributing to their economy waive council rates 18/19 to assist in the survival of the industry
KI Council supports this request for waiver
Fencing commences along foreshore and around wharf entrance
American River wharf becomes Bushfire Last Resort Refuge
DPTI install power lines through KI shellfish leased area to end of wharf area. No notice given to KI Shellfish and prevented access to farm for 2 days in breach of lease agreement. No follow up by Council, no resolution and not reflected in lease agreement
Still awaiting resolution of this issue from KI Council
January new KI Connect ferry service commences from American River
Fencing at entrance ceased until power lines resolved.
PIRSA waives lease and licence fees for 19/20
SA Oyster Growers Association requests all Councils with oyster farming contributing to their economy waive council rates 19/20 to assist in the survival of the industry
KI Council denied request for waiver putting additional financial strain on business
4 year lease fee review conducted with KI Council - Issues with lease lacking security of tenure, boundary changes, power lines installed through property and lack of support by council for industry rates waiver raised.
Review found lease charging structure to be illegal with credits applied
Still awaiting updated lease and charging structure from KI Council Discussed continuing issues with security of tenure with DEW
Suggested to KISH that one option would be to submit an Unsolicited Proposal for the land
Unsolicited proposal submitted, defined protocols require no lobbying or community consultation unless instructed by the Case officer assigned
Application for small land-based aquaculture development submitted to PIRSA.
PIRSA requests support of concept from KI Council - Still awaiting a response from KI Council
Coastal Levy bank discussions commence and movement of KI Shellfish lease boundaries raised to cater for levy – may require foreshore fence to be moved at the cost of Ki Shellfish
June 2020 KI Council carry a motion to not sell any community land
July 2020 Crown requests support from KI Council for Unsolicited Proposal
Dec 2020 KAR Management successful in Tourism Industry Development Funding to assist in fencing, waterfront tasting room and customer toilets
13 July 2021 KI Shellfish presents vision and plan to KI Council
Nov 2021 KI Council advises that it does not support Unsolicited Proposal based on the recently carried motion
Freedom of Information act request around KISH Unsolicited Proposal submitted
February Town Centre project integration with KI Shellfish TIDF project commenced
June KI Council Town Centre Project - American River Concept Plan released
July AR Strategic Plan released
19 January 2022 another meeting held with KI Council, RDA, Dept Skills & Innovation and KI Shellfish to discuss land lease options. The outcome of which was most parties were very concerned that a satisfactory lease providing security of tenure would be easily achieved. KISH reiterated commitment to fence and town centre integration on the basis of clarity around tenure.
8 February 2022 Final Report by Kelledy Jones Law firm in regards to request pertaining to Section 270 Review on American River
Wharf Oyster Farm and Surrounds Management Plan (section 11.4)
23 February KISH requests a presentation by KI Council to the Community of American river to address concerns relating to Town Centre project, development within town centre zoning and dedicated purpose of lot 101 prior to conducting a presentation about our business plans. ARPA support sought for this presentation.
13 April KI Council reps (two new staff) visit the farm to discuss fence, court order and lease extension. No progress made.