Resort destroyed by fire approved for rebuild despite ‘high risk’ location

Resort destroyed by fire approved for rebuild despite ‘high risk’ location

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Kangaroo Island resort Southern Ocean Lodge has received the go signal to rebuild more than a year after it was destroyed by bushfires. However, rebuilding is not a piece of cake as its owner continues to face insurance hurdles.

In January 2020, a devastating bushfire swept across Kangaroo Island and burned over 170,000 hectares, more than a third of the island. Southern Ocean Lodge did not escape the bushfire, but founders James and Hayley Baillie vowed to rebuild it, according to ABC.

However, as a “high risk” location, Southern Ocean Lodge must comply with 34 conditions set out by the Country Fire Services (CFS) to start repairing the fire-damaged site. James Baillie also revealed that they were struggling with insurance, describing the likely cost of insuring the project as a “significant number.”

James said he was “delighted” that Planning Minister Vickie Chapman approved the site’s development application. However, insurance premiums could impede the revival of the $2,500-per-night retreat.

“We appreciate the support of the South Australian government in this process and consider it another box ticked on the way to rebuilding our flagship property,” James said, as reported by ABC. “[However], the viable insurability of the lodge once complete is still a major area of concern.

“In reality, it’s now the only significant impediment to recreating this tourism icon for South Australia.”

In the South Australian Government Gazette, the CFS emphasised that “given the location of the development, [it] is considered high risk due to the vulnerable nature of tourists.”

As per the CFS’s conditions, the Southern Ocean Lodge must always have 100,000 litres of water on site as a fire-fighting supply. It must also be accessible by a fire trail and have a bushfire buffer zone of at least 20 metres.

The resort’s management must also implement a “leave early” strategy for guests and staff due to its fire-prone location, the CFS said.

“A ‘stay and defend’ strategy poses an unacceptable risk to life,” the CFS added, as reported by ABC. “In addition, the proponent shall consider reducing operating hours and restricting activities on days of heightened bushfire risk.”

James continues to negotiate with insurers, with the proposed plans aiming to rebuild the site based on the original design by South Australian architect Max Pritchard. The resort would also have a helipad for emergencies.

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