NEW DEVELOPMENTS AT KILSBY SINKHOLE
Regular users of the site will have noticed a lot of changes over the last couple of years, with the refurbishment of the shed to provide toilet/changing facilities and a classroom/social space, the landscaping works around the sinkhole itself, and – most recently – the installation of the spectacular new viewing platform.
To build on these physical developments, in the next few days we’re going to be announcing exciting changes in how the Sinkhole is managed and accessed. Watch this space!
NEW AGREEMENT RE-INTRODUCES CDAA ACCESS TO KILSBY SINKHOLE
The gates to Kilsby Sinkhole are once again open to members of the Cave Divers Association of Australia (the CDAA) – the primary organisation aligned to cave diving activity in Australia, under a new access agreement negotiated between the Association and the Kilsby Family.
In 2016, the CDAA’s access to the site was suspended to allow the association to review the implications of the landowner’s objectives to trial the introduction of new non-exclusive access licences for a range of commercial and non-commercial entities.
“We recognise that our aspirations for our site are somewhat different to other landowners in the region and this has created a flow-on impact for the association who, up until more recently, had enjoyed exclusive access,” said Ben Kilsby who manages site access.
“Our work to promote greater diversity in access required the CDAA to consider their position and review policies, procedures and risk management systems to align with the unique shared nature of our site.”
“We value the leadership that the CDAA plays within the diving industry and it’s great to have a renewed relationship with the Association,” said Ben.
After over 2 years without access, the new agreement fulfils the objectives of both parties, paving the way for the Association to regularly visit the site, commencing immediately.
Over the past 3 years, the Kilsby family has been working to diversify access to the unique site, responding to the ever-increasing interest in its use for a range of activities including sightseeing and photography, snorkelling, freediving and ‘open water’ recreational diving activity.
To achieve this, the family has worked with insurers, legal advisers and diving industry representatives to develop a safety framework which guides all aspects of site access.
Amongst many conditions, this framework requires divers with entry-level training to be supervised in all aspects of their access to the water, ensuring their diving activity is conservative and within broadly accepted industry standards. As a result, ‘Open Water’ trained divers are restricted to the areas of the site with direct access to the surface of the water at all times.
“It’s been a significant undertaking to build an access model that was both responsible and sustainable,” said Graham Kilsby, 4th generation operator of the family-owned farm that surrounds the sinkhole.
“Naturally, any underwater activity has an element of risk and it was important from the outset that we developed a model which worked to ensure the safety of our guests,” he said.
Driven by a passion for tourism development in the region, the Kilsby Family feel a responsibility to share the site with others.
“As a region, we have some amazing natural attractions that are amongst some of the most unique in the world. It’s important that these sites are accessible to people for a variety of uses – not just to look at, but to interact and engage with,” said Ben.
Since diversifying access, the Kilsby family has welcomed thousands of new visitors to the site and regularly receives feedback about the positive impact for a variety of local businesses.
“On the back of having access to our sinkhole, a new dive shop has set up business in Mount Gambier offering training courses and regular guided tours to the site,” said Graham.
“We’ve received positive feedback from local pubs and restaurants and we know our visitors book accommodation spanning from caravan parks to hotels and privately-owned holiday houses or B&B’s.”
The Kilsby Family hopes that a renewed working relationship with the CDAA will create an obvious training and membership pathway for those who are introduced to the site through Open Water diving activities.
“The CDAA plays an important role in the industry by maintaining standards attached to the safe access to caves and other fresh-water sites where advanced levels of training is paramount,” said Ben.
“We look forward to working alongside the CDAA to continue to promote the unique world-renowned diving opportunities that Mount Gambier has to offer.”
Over the past 3 years, numerous investments have been made at the site including landscaping, the installation of lighting, toilets and showers and the creation of change rooms, training spaces and barbecue/kitchenette areas. Plans are in place for the installation of a new viewing platform which will greatly enhance the viewing of the sinkhole from the ground level.
Kilsby Sinkhole can be visited through prior booking with a licensed guide. Those interested in diving at the site should visit www.kilsbysinkhole.com for more information.