The popular South Australian tourist spot, Whalers Way, could become the site of three test rocket launches later this year, causing concern among some environmentalists and traditional property owners.

Important points:

  • Traditional owners and conservationists have raised concerns about the planned site for three rocket launches this year
  • Nature Conservation SA is concerned about two threatened species
  • According to Southern Launch, the company has taken a holistic approach to the maintenance of the area during its testing program

SA space industry leader Southern Launch intends to conduct test launches on private land to make the area a permanent launch site for satellite shipments into space in the future.

Nature Conservation Society of SA attorney Julia Peacock said the area on the state’s rugged south coast is not the place to do test launches.

“It’s a very special nature reserve,” she said.

“It’s actually specifically protected by environmental legislation called an inheritance agreement. This means a private landowner agreement to protect this area, so we really want this agreement to be respected.

The Whalers Way is a popular place for camping. (

Emma Pedler

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“We are also very concerned that it is habitat for a number of protected species.”

Ms. Peacock said society was concerned about threatened species in the area such as southern emu wrens and white-fronted whipbirds.

“They are very small and shy birds, so they are quite difficult to see,” she said.

The Nature Conservation Society SA is concerned about the southern emu wrens. (

Delivered: Dion Thompson

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“We are concerned that we are building an industrial facility that has explosions that are loud and cause vibrations – that these species will be afraid.

“It will change their behavior and affect the way they want to move around in this area.”

“Let it be natural”

Nauo Elder Jody Miller said there are many cultural problems on the Whalers Way.

“It’s culturally significant, there are stories [out there] and we don’t want to destroy anything, “said Mr. Miller.

“If only it’s left alone, let it be natural, people can see this for the next generation – all children as well as my children.”

Holistic protection

Lloyd Damp, CEO of Southern Launch, said the testing program provides an opportunity to specifically measure what impact the noise would have on local species.

“We are working with one of the best universities in Australia to take the measurements and then make them available for the environmental impact statement assessment,” said Damp.

“Of course, if the effect is detrimental to the environment, the proposed project should not be continued. We should look at other mitigating strategies or activities to preserve the local environment.”

cleared land between bushes

Southern Launch proposes three test launches at Whalers WaY. (

Emma Pedler

)

Mr Damp said during the testing phase the researchers would be closely monitoring the area.

“We use a number of microphones and specialty cameras and then we can gather information about the baseline species and the behavior of the species,” he said.

“Are the birds actually affected? We assume that the noise from a small rocket is likely to resemble a thunderstorm – is this what we are talking about or something else?”

Mr Damp said the company will attempt to clear less than 1 percent of the land on Whaler’s Way if a permanent program is approved.

“These parts of the country are outside the inheritance agreement,” he said.

The CEO said the company will take a rounded approach to improving the area.

“We also want to start managing tourist activities there in a way that enhances the unique environment. We also want to introduce a program to eradicate wild animals.”

“If we are serious about protecting all bird life in the region, we have to take a holistic approach to improving the environment.”

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