The existing Granite Island Causeway in Victor Harbor had reached the end of its lifespan but this iconic 83-km structure was a recreational landmark much valued by the local community. Likewise, as a vital tourist destination supporting the regional economy, the Causeway saw high visitors annually, meaning disruptions could impact not only residents but also tourism and local businesses. The Causeway was also situated in an environmentally sensitive Habitat Protection Zone - the surrounding waters were home to delicate marine wildlife like penguins, whales, and endemic fish species that required thoughtful protection. And as a site of great cultural significance to the Ngarrindjeri and Ramindjeri peoples, the Causeway project necessitated respectful engagement with Traditional Owners.
We were engaged early to navigate the complex intersection of interests and sensitivities in the Victor Harbor community. We set out to proactively inform and involve groups connected to the Causeway, including councils, tourism agencies, business owners, environmental advocates and Aboriginal communities. One of the main priorities was to engage with the local population, which was known to vary at different times of the year.
Maintaining trust with multiple stakeholders was facilitated by coordinating regular briefings, meetings, and site walks with local residents, as well as disseminating frequent construction updates and fact sheets. Through transparent consultation and open discussions, we developed collaborative relationships that enabled us to identify risks early and develop tailored solutions to minimise disruptions.
Multiple unique initiatives included engagement with Business Victor Harbor and the council to create a register for local businesses to express interest in and benefit from project opportunities. We instituted dedicated communications protocols to avoid disruptions during important whale migration seasons. Construction crews were trained on penguin habitats, breeding behaviours, and sensitivity to noise. Soundproofing barriers were installed near penguin burrows, and demarcation fencing safeguarded an endangered hooded plover nest found within the construction zone.
Through our understanding of the sensitivities of the local environment, we ensured the continuity of many essential habitats during construction.
Our sensitive engagement promoted project understanding and local community ownership. To thank locals for their support, we facilitated a community open day after the new Causeway opened in late 2021. Over 500 residents attended the celebratory event, which included the first public walkthrough on the completed Causeway from Victor Harbor to Granite Island.
The Causeway replacement protected the environment while respecting cultural significance. We were honoured to be involved in commissioning South Australia's longest piece of Aboriginal art, created by the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) artists on the new Causeway. By putting community values first, we delivered infrastructure to meet needs while minimising disruption, and a responsive approach reflected our commitment to positive, sustainable outcomes.