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Dominique Houzet Page 1 23/12/2009

How Sustainable is King Island’s Industry?

King Island has long boasted a sustainable approach to


industry and therefore a higher quality product and have asked a
higher price for their products. But is this the case? Has King Island
really achieved a truly sustainable range of industries? Or have they
been hiding behind a masquerade of lies and deception, using
sustainability as a guise to mislead A map of King Island. Fig
consumers into paying a premium for 1
their products?
King Island is a part of
Australia and is located in the Bass
Strait approximately 90km from both
Victoria and Tasmania as can be seen
in Fig 1. King Island was first sighted
in 1798 to 1801 and settled in 1892
(KNIRM, 2001) There is a diverse
range of native flora and fauna living
in the island’s natural environment
and it is recognised for a sustainable
approach to life and industry. King
Island has a fairly small population;
below 2000 people. (KNIRM, 2001)
The climate is a mild maritime
climate with year-round rainfall. Its
position in the roaring forties ensures
strong westerly winds are prevalent,
especially during winter. (KNIRM,
2001) The main industries on King
Island are dairy, beef, fishing, and
kelp (KNIRM, 2001) which employ a
majority of the community and
without which, King Island’s economy
would collapse. Source: Global Learning Memory Stick 2009

Sustainability is the ability to be


maintained indefinitely without negatively impacting on the
environment, economy, community or individual. The use of a
resource so that it is there to be used in the future and that by being
in a place, you leave it better than how it was found.
The four main areas of sustainability are environment,
economy, community and personal which are all interlinked into a
cohesive whole. Each area supports the others and where one area
is failing, the others will fail as well because they rely on each other
to last.
Environment is the place itself on an immediate, local and
global level. The environment includes the natural environment as
well as the man-made structures where people live. The resources
we can get from our environment need to be removed at a rate we
can replenish them. If a local environment is sustained in all areas,

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then a global environment will be sustained however, if it is not


sustained then there will be negative consequences over all areas of
sustainability as industries cannot function due to a lack of
resources and communities fail under a lack of jobs in failing
industries.
A sustainable economy involves the industries and services
within a community. A successful economy requires a stable
industry and needs to supply workers and people with money to
spend. It is important that industries put money back into the local
community rather than sending it offshore as well as supply training
to local people to fulfil the needs of the industry.
Community sustainability is people and how people relate and
come together to form a group who rely on one another. There are
immediate, local and global communities, all on different levels.
Communities are required to work together to achieve goals and
overcome problems.
Personal is personal health and wellbeing and how we
contribute to society. Personal sustainability requires a person to
add to their society through feats they aim to achieve. It cannot be
achieved by being a burden of society which only draws on the
resources other individuals have contributed to society therefore
pulling he community back.
The clean green image of King Island is an integral part of the
industries on the island and without which, most industries would
collapse as the sale of their products dropped. The clean green
image entails trying to minimise or eliminate waste products
including carbon emissions and recycling as much as possible.
Caring for the environment is also a part of the clean green image
and ties into sustainable environment management. Adopting this
philosophy does create an extra cost for he companies following it
but in return a more quality product is created which allows a higher
price to be asked for, evening out the cost of a clean green industry.
Harvesting bull kelp from King Island’s shores began in 1974
by Seaweed Industries Ltd but was taken over by Kelp Industries Ltd
in 1975 (Kelp Industries Pty Ltd, 2008). The King Island kelp industry
is the processing of bull kelp collected from beaches around King
Island. The type of kelp
collected is bull kelp and Bull Kelp left on the beach from
its scientific name is harvesting. Fig 2
Durvillea Potorum (Kelp
Industries Pty Ltd, 2008); a
large, leafy brown edible
seaweed depicted in figure
2 rich in vitamins and
minerals (Health
Supplement
Encyclopaedia, 2008). It
grows along colder Source: Dominique
Houzet
coastlines (Health

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Supplement Encyclopaedia, 2008) in great forests in the sea


(Unknown Author, 2008). The bull kelp is commercially harvested for
a chemical called algin it contains which is used as a thickener,
stabiliser and emulsifier (Unknown Author, 2008) in foods and also
for many things in the industrial sector. Some of the things algin is
used for include making paper, ceramics, cosmetics, paint,
insecticides and in many medicines and processed foods and
beverages including dairy products such as ice-cream (Unknown
Author, 2008). Bull Kelp has the highest percentage of alginates
compared to other seaweeds; 40% compared to 20 % (Lyndall Crisp,
2006). It takes about 6 tonnes of wet kelp to get 1 tonne of dried
kelp (Lyndall Crisp, 2006). The process of drying and processing
kelp is as follows: Self employed suppliers collect by hand, plants
washed up on the beaches on the west coast of King island after a
storm and deliver it to the factory where it is hung up to dry on “S”-
shaped hooks. The kelp is lifted from the lower hooks to the higher
ones to be stored and atmospherically pre-dried. After about two
weeks the kelp is put through a wood fire drying system that
evaporates enough water to leave the kelp storable and brittle. This
brittle kelp is then reduced to a granular form. The grains are then
poured into bags weighing 1 tonne with the finer materials
packaged in 20kg bags. Suppliers are paid based on the weight of
their dried product. Once in bags, the kelp is either shipped to
Scotland form Currie or to Melbourne (Kelp Industries Pty Ltd, 2008).
The majority of the processed kelp is purchased by ISP Alginates;
one of the largest alginates producers in the world (Kelp Industries
Pty Ltd, 2008).Kelp is also used as an organic fertiliser (Tim Lee,
2007) and could be a preventative to cancer (Tim Lee, 2007). There
are close to 3000 species of kelp in Australia, most found near KI
(Tim Lee, 2007). Of these species, cows choose to eat the bull kelp
that washes up over all other species of kelp, especially pregnant
cows (Tim Lee, 2007) which indicates that bull kelp has special
properties other kelps lack.
The kelp industry on King Island is sustainable
environmentally for many reasons. However, the main reason is
because the factory chooses to remain sustainable and therefore
does everything within its power to continue on in a sustainable
approach to kelping. Environmental risks from the plant raised to
the factory are prioritised according to frequency, severity and
community concern and then are dealt with accordingly (John
Hiscock, 2009). It is sometimes believed that kelp grows on shore
and when it is harvested, harvesters are cutting the plant where it is
growing but this is not the case. Kelp grows under the sea, hundreds
of kilometres from shore, attached to rocks with a bonding agent it
produces and the harvesters only collect and process kelp that has
naturally severed itself from the rocks and washed up on the shore
(John Hiscock, 2009) and so therefore, the factory is only using
nature’s waste products. Waste products are also a concern when
discussing the sustainability of an industry but the kelp factory does

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not produce much waste (John Hiscock, 2009) and makes an effort
to dispose of all waste products locally. This is a point in key for the
dairy industry as well, who endeavour to dispose of all their waste
on site rather than pollute the environment. At the dairy factory, all
the manure is kept on site and no fertilizers are used to pollute
waterways. All industries on King Island make an effort to minimise
and control their waste products. There is a fortnightly garbage
collection at the factory but it is rarely full (John Hiscock, 2009) and
the wood for the furnace is all waste wood with the furnace burns at
1200˚C so there is no smoke emitted to pollute the environment or
contribute to climate change. (John Hiscock, 2009) The factory does
not produce any chemical waste (John Hiscock, 2009).
The one issue confronting the environmental sustainability of
the kelp factory is the existence of kelp and it is a debated issue as
to whether the kelp levels are declining or not. Abalone divers have
reported that kelp levels are not declining (John Hiscock, 2009)
however Kelp Watch declares the all species are declining in number
and there has been up to a 50% reduction over 50 years in kelp
levels near Tasmania (Tim Lee, 2007). Both sources agree however,
that there is not enough research to be sure if the kelp levels are
declining (John Hiscock, 2009) (Tim Lee, 2007). Kelp protects
ecosystems close to the coast so if it disappears the ecosystems will
change (Tim Lee, 2007). If the ecosystems surrounding King Island
change then so will the marine life as the area is not suitable habitat
for them to live in any more and so the fishing industry, another
major industry of King Island will be affected. It is therefore crucially
important that both industries monitor and care for the surrounding
environment or they risk causing their own collapse. The dairy
industry also relies on a quality natural environment to sell their
products (King Island Dairy Group, 2007) using the clean green
image to offset the added cost of the expensive shipping across
Bass Strait. This is an example of how the industries on King Island
are interlinked by their common concerns and goals. Causes for a
decline in kelp levels include global warming (Tim Lee, 2007) which
could be killing the kelp by raising the water’s temperature.
Because kelp prefers colder waters, a rise in temperature would
destroy habitat ideal for kelp growth. Kelp also requires wave action
to grow and the sea currents are necessary for the kelp to wash up
on the beach (John Hiscock, 2009) so if global warming melted
enough ice from Greenland, the Arctic Circle and Antarctica and the
rise in freshwater in the ocean diluted the water enough to
significantly slow the ocean conveyer by reducing salinity then the
kelp industry would be affected because the currents that wash the
kelp onto the shore for harvesters to collect would not continue
washing up a steady supply of kelp. If the kelp levels were declining
then the kelp industry would be in danger of collapse but because
there is no definite proof that kelp levels are declining, there is no
reason to think that the kelp industry is unsustainable.

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Another
Kelp Industries production History 1997-
concern that the
2007. Fig 3.
kelp industry has is
a recent lack of
strong, south and
south-westerly
winds which has
impacted on the
amount of kelp
washed up on the
beach (John
Hiscock, 2009). This
lack of wind action
Source: John Hiscock
has resulted in a
slight drop in production in recent years as can be seen in the fig 3
when comparing 1997 with 2003. More easterly winds have
occurred but southerly and westerly winds are required to dislodge
the kelp and wash it up on the shores of King Island (Tim Lee, 2007).
Easterly winds will only drive the kelp out into the Southern Ocean.
The weather patterns on King Island are usually quite erratic and so
just because the winds are calmer now, they will still be
unpredictable in six months time. Therefore, a small drop in
southerly and westerly winds should not permanently affect the
industry and it should still remain environmentally sustainable.
Economic sustainability is achieved by the kelp factory as it
presents a viable working opportunity for some of the population.
Eight people are directly employed at the factory with fifty to sixty
people employed as harvesters (John Hiscock, 2009) enabling its
employees to spend their wages within the community, therefore
keeping the local economy afloat. The factory tries to employ as
many locals as possible, rather than employ offshore workers which
ensures that at least some of the money remains on the island They
also spend as much money as possible locally; a restriction which is
self imposed (John Hiscock, 2009) but guarantees a more
economically sustainable approach to business. In fact, the factory
puts $1.5-3 million back into the community annually (John Hiscock,
2009) to support local projects and the economy; even though it is
internationally owned (John Hiscock, 2009) the money is still spent
locally. Another defining point of an economically sustainable
industry is that it puts resources into training their employees as the
kelp factory does, training workers in first aid and fork lift licenses
(John Hiscock, 2009) which can be vital skills when collecting and
hanging kelp up to dry.
The supply of kelp to the kelp factory is fairly steady, and
even in calm periods there is a vast storage system as is shown in
fig 4 to keep the factory going with a ready supply of kelp (John
Hiscock, 2009) so the factory’s eight jobs are secure year-round.
The demand for King island Kelp is fierce and nearly every week
there is one customer or another calling in to see if there is any

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spare kelp for sale (John Hiscock, 2009). This high demand ensures
that the factory’s jobs are secure and that the factory will continue
to operate, despite the higher costs of shipping kelp across Bass
Strait. Although cheaper options are available in Asia, customers still
prefer to buy the quality, purer product from King Island because of
Kelp drying on the storage racks at the the poor quality and
factory Fig 4 contamination
associated with other
Asian sources (John
Hiscock, 2009).
The kelp factory has
achieved community
sustainability by
forming their own
developed community
as well as becoming a
part of the King Island
Source: Camille Bussle
community and
working as a cohesive
whole with others in the community to achieve common goals. Kelp
harvesters participated voluntarily in a coastline cleanup (John
Hiscock, 2009) with a number of other individuals of the community
to achieve a more welcoming, healthier environment. The factory
itself tries to support the local community by offering them jobs
before importing foreigners (John Hiscock, 2009) much the same as
the dairy industry who also try to employ locals before offshore
workers as a mark of supporting the local community. The factory
puts $1.5-3 million back into the community annually (John Hiscock,
2009) as a show of how they support the community they live
within. The factory also supports their employees by putting
resources into training their employees in first aid and fork lift
licenses (John Hiscock, 2009) which allows their employees to
become more personally sustainable as they gain more skills which
allow them to develop and contribute more to the community.
The kelp industry on King Island is a model of the other
industries King Island has because of the undeniable similarities
between the ways each industry functions and the ideas each
industry aspires to. The Clean Green Image that King Island has as a
whole is of the uttermost importance when selling products from the
kelp factory as the higher quality compensates for the higher costs
the product has due to shipping across the Bass Strait compared to
similar products from Asia. However the Clean Green Image is also
important to the dairy industry to selling their products offshore as a
guarantee of quality compared to other brands despite the premium
price. Thus, the two industries value the same concept in order for
the business to survive and the kelp factory is a model of the others.
They also both support this concept by engaging in environmentally
friendly practises such as minimising waste products.

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King Island’s industries embody a sustainable approach to


functioning as an industry. The kelp industry is a model of the
practises that King island’s industries engage in to become
sustainable economically, environmentally, communally and
personally. Waste disposal is a key issue in environmental
sustainability as incorrectly or poorly disposed of waste can do long
term damage to ecosystems and waterways. Both the kelp factory
and dairy factory endeavour to minimise their waste products –the
kelp factory only puts out a garbage collection once a fortnight and
the dairy factory does not use fertiliser- which therefore does not
add extra nutrients to waterways destroying ecosystems and does
not add to landfill. The waste that they do create is kept on site and
disposed of responsibly such as the manure from the dairy farm is
stored on site. This practise embodies sustainability because it is
preserving the environment rather than destroying it and resources
are not being replaced with wasted products but rather being aloud
to replenish themselves. The kelp industry uses the dead kelp
washed up on the beach as a resource by removing it from the
beach so by the industry’s existence the environment is actually
better off. King island’s industries are sustainable economically
because they employ local people and provide then with skills to
move the business forward. This is exemplified by the kelp factory
that chooses to employ locals over offshore workers and provide
first aid and fork lift licence training to their employees. They also
give $1.5-3 million dollars back to the community every year. These
actions are necessary to an economically sustainable industry
because they recirculate money through the local economy. The
same actions that support economic sustainability represent
community sustainability in King Island’s industries because by
supporting the local economy, the industry supports the local
community. By training their employees they are enabling them to
become more personally sustainable. Similarly, by offering jobs to
locals before foreigners and by putting money back into the
community they are supporting the local community. The industries
on King Island are sustainable because they engage in sustainable
practises and follow sustainable ideas. Their behaviour in the four
sectors of sustainability, economy, community, environment and
personal shows that they value the concept of sustainability and
understand all the ramifications that it holds but are willing to
accept those in the effort to create a sustainable industry.
There were several constraints in place when researching this
topic which will have impacted on the quality and amount of
information there was access to and to the number of opinions that
were taken into account. There was no internet access whilst writing
this report so the information collected was constricted to what was
provided in class and interviews with local people on excursions. If
there had been a longer time frame to collect notes then there
would have been more information to use when collating and writing
this report. Because of factory closures and timeframes, LT1 was

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only able to visit the kelp factory and not the dairy factory as well.
Therefore, the notes about the dairy factory could have been more
complete and a more thorough analysis of the sustainability of the
dairy industry and the links between the industries on King Island
could have been made. In order to gain more thorough information
on all aspects it would have been necessary to visit all major
industries on King Island or at least the dairy factory to draw more
definite links between the industries.

Sources
1. Health Supplement Encyclopaedia “Kelp”
www.florahealth.com/flora/home/Canada/HealthInformation/Encyclo
pedias/Kelp.htm (28/08/08)
This source was used to find general information on kelp and is
probably reliable to that extent but because it is a commercial site –
indicated by the “.com” in the address- if it went into to much more
detail it might become biased to try and sell a product.

2. Unknown author “Kelp”


library.thinkquest.org/J0111704/habitat/kelp/kelp.html (28/8/08)
Information on what the alginates collected from kelp are used for
was found on this site and it is reliable because it was made by an
organisation –“.org”- and this information was also discussed in
class so it is backed up by another source.

3. “Kelp Industries Pty Ltd”


www.kelpind.com.au/index.html (28/08/08)
Includes background information on the kelp factory and the
process of processing kelp. This site should be reliable because it is
about its own product and the background of its industry and there
is no reason to be biased about its history. They may have been
biased about the process to make it sound more sustainable but at
the factory, the process was much the same as described so this is
an accurate and reliable source.

4. Crisp Lyndall. 2006 “King Island responds to global call for kelp”
Australian Financial Review 16 Jun. p. 80.
This source is about background on the kelp industry on King Island
and is reliable because it is a printed piece and will have been
edited for accuracy before printing.

5. Tim Lee. “Kelp Industries King Island” Landline [television


broadcast] ABC Television 22nd Sept 2007
General information on kelp and more specific information on the
debated decline of kelp and its consequences was from this source.
It is reliable because firstly it is a television broadcast made for a
government owned company and therefore has to follow certain
guidelines on “misleading information shown to the public” and the
program interviewed many people who had conflicting views on the

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subject so therefore it was more focused on presenting the facts


than persuading anyone.

6. King Island Dairy Group “Discover King Island Dairy” [DVD] 26-03-
2007
Discusses the King Island Dairy and was reliable in the basics but to
get to the facts, a lot of digging through pointless, over the top
adjectives was required, in order to get through the bias towards the
product. The DVD was basically a commercial for King Island Dairy
and its “excellent range of cheeses” and was focused on persuading
the viewer to buy the product. Therefore the information gained
form the DVD was probably twisted o fit the Dairy’s purposes.

7. Hiscock John (2009) (personal communication) King Island,


Australia. 7th August
John Hiscock is a reliable source when it comes to the kelp factory
because he is the head of running it. From him, the information on
how the kelp industry is sustainable came. As he is the head of the
factory it is important that he understands the philosophy and
concept that his business is run by and the facts about the factory
because otherwise there would be serious problems at the factory
and as to how it is run.

8. King Island Natural Resource Management Group (KINRM) 2001


King Island Natural Resource Management Review and Strategic
Action Plan1998-2001 Chapter 2
This is background information on King Island such as the climate
and location. It is reliable because it was written by a group
dedicated to King Island and improving it, not lying about its state of
affairs and although some of the information might be outdated as it
was written in 2001 most should still be accurate.

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