From early March 2020, WSP provided pro-bono services to support the community on Kangaroo Island (KI) in South Australia. As part of the BizRebuild initiative, WSP provided work on two projects– West End KI Community Recovery Project and the Parndana Town Hall.
The WSP team, led by Jennifer McDonnell, Principal Stakeholder Engagement Consultant with support from Adelaide-based team members Stacie Reeves and Joanne Chong in addition to Jodie McPhee from Queensland, was honoured to provide project management and stakeholder engagement services. Leaving their own homes and families at short notice and arriving on the island within weeks of the bushfire disaster, the WSP team utilised their skills and experience to provide on-the-ground assistance to the community of 4,500 residents as well as businesses including agriculture and tourism organisations.
“WSP staff have played a significant leadership role in the development of implementable solutions whilst being attentive to community needs” – CEO Kangaroo Island Council
Not only did the Kangaroo Island community face the impact of the fires, but they were also subsequently impacted by COVID-19. The severe business downturn combined with job losses due to both the bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic had significant economic and psychological impacts on the local community.
WSP’s contribution led to the resumption of both economic activity and community recovery through facilitating the development of several rebuild and recovery projects on the island.
As a key tourism destination for South Australia, Kangaroo Island’s economy, which is driven by many local businesses, has been severely impacted. 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. Equally they realised that worker accommodation was required as a necessity with the nearest major settlement of Kingscote some 50 minutes’ drive away. This infrastructure would not only support the many local businesses and residential rebuilding efforts but also those of the destroyed Flinders Chase National Park facilities.
Following engagement with key local stakeholders and the BizRebuild team, the West End KI Community Recovery Project was created as a significant, community supported initiative. This project will substantially contribute to the island’s economic recovery and future growth of visitors by providing valuable accommodation and services in the west.
Another key project has been the renovation and refurbishment of the Parndana Town Hall – a community asset in the ‘heartland’ of the island. During the bushfires, the hall became the central meeting point for those in immediate need of aid – it was a base for the Emergency Response Committee for community bushfire briefings and provision of donated clothing, food and water. The hall came under attack from embers from the approaching fire fronts four times during the bushfire emergency. Today, it has become a symbol of strength, refuge, resilience and protection. The local Parndana Progress Association Inc (PPA), developed a project scope for its refurbishment. With BizRebuild’s support, WSP helped progress this opportunity to renovate and refurbish the hall, creating an inviting and functional space for the benefit of the whole community.
In addition to these two projects, WSP has been pivotal in identifying and assisting in developing support for the Kangaroo Island Local Government authority to progress businesses cases identified in Council’s Prospectus and Bushfire Response to help with the rebuilding and recovery on the island and the energising of the Kingscote Farmer’s Market proposal.
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