The owners of Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island have vowed they will look to rebuild after it was burnt to the ground by the devastating bushfires early this year.
In a statement, James and Hayley Baillie said they were “immediately committed to rebuilding the lodge, and to taking a leading role in whatever ways we can to help rebuild the tourism industry on Kangaroo Island”.
“We have already taken architect Max Pritchard to revisit the site, and happily the original plans for the lodge are still intact,” they said. “While it’s currently too early to estimate a date for re-opening we’d like to reassure everyone that the recreation of Southern Ocean Lodge is our next focus.”
The lodge was evacuated prior to the fires sweeping through on January 3, with a small core team of staff staying behind to monitor the situation.
“Fortunately all guests and our staff are safe, which is the main thing,” the couple said. “We owe a huge debt of thanks to our amazing team at Southern Ocean Lodge, led by lodge managers John Hird and Alison Heath and their team who together did such an incredible job managing the escalating situation so quickly and effectively. We are also tremendously grateful to the South Australia Country Fire Service whose crews and volunteers worked so hard to protect lives and landscape.
“In reality this is a very emotional time for us all, and we’ve shed many tears over the past few days for the loss of a dream realised and a life’s work for us.
“We’re very conscious that at this moment of loss, it’s not all about us at Southern Ocean Lodge, but about the KI community as a whole, which has suffered losses as a result of the bushfires which reached around 40 per cent of the island.”
Almost half of the island has been affected by the bushfires that have destroyed the island’s Visitor Information Centre, Western Kangaroo Island Caravan Park, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat.
But Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly has called on visitors not to cancel their plans, with February’s Kangaroo Island Cup racing carnival still slated to go ahead.
“Kangaroo Island is still a beautiful place – there’s still plenty to do,” he said.
Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania has committed to donating $500 from each of the next one hundred bookings to restore habitat on Kangaroo Island, to the value of $50,000.
The funds will be channelled directly to Nature Foundation SA’s new fundraising appeal, the Wildlife Recovery Fund, which focusses on habitat recovery in Kangaroo Island’s national parks and other fire-affected areas.