Arkaba Station on the market

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 12 4:30pm 
Post subject: Arkaba Station on the market
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Hi there,
No, I'm not trying to promote the sale, but pass on the fact that the upcoming sale of the property, which abuts Wilpena Pound to the west, could have obvious repercussions for Heysen Trail walkers depending on who buys the station.

There's a lot of places on the trail where deviations can be made, but where Arkaba station is concerned, because it gives direct access to Wilpena via Black's gap, a less then friendly new owner could seriously foul things up for walkers. Bids for the property close on November 12, so any time from that point on, if the station does indeed change hands, it might behoove everyone to keep their ears to the ground and contact information at hand to find out how things will pan out for the new owners and their stance on free and easy access to hikers. Given the asking price and the new directions the station has taken in recent years, more Eco-tourism development could be part of the equation, which may make the new owners less inclined to make the area easily accessible. After all, if they're charging people a couple of grand to take them on a hike from Wilpena to the station over a 4 - 5 day trip, how's it going to look if those same paying customers (albeit with a few bells and whistles thrown in) bump into a bunch of Heysen trail devotees telling them they're tramping through the property for free??

Though this is the first time I've left a comment here, I have often perused the pages on the site, and I know a few people get ticked that Arkaba isn't as user friendly as it used to be to trail walkers. In all fairness to them though, you have to look at it from their point of view and how much they've accomplished in recent years. The sheep industry has been so dicey in recent years that a lot of the local stations have seriously cut back on the industry and turned to tourism as a way of trying to survive. The Rasheed family owned the property for some time and were the ones responsible for starting all the rehab work on the property, then they sold it a few years ago to the current outfit, who are an upscale Eco-tourism organization. They claim to have poured a million dollars into the place, but now want to sell it on for some reason.

Virtually all the stations around Wilpena have gone in the Eco-tourism or Outback Experience direction, Rawnsley being the foremost. By comparison Arkaba, which is twice the size, has only converted the original station home to luxury tourism, with some hiking tours thrown in as well. Yet they've scaled back their sheep operations dramatically so that something like a 1/4 of the property only is left for wool operations, while the remainder has undergone a major rehabilitation process that has taken years and hundreds of thousand of dollars to bring about.

Aside from removing the sheep, the station has also invested heavily in eradicating rabbits via bulldozers, explosives and baits, and has employed staff to hunt down and eradicate thousands of goats, foxes, and feral cats that were devastating the flora and fauna on the property. The results have been impressive apparently, even to the extent where yellow-footed rock wallabies have made a comeback in the area.

All in all therefore, the station is to be applauded for embarking on such an intensive and expensive program to help restore much of the station to such impressive proportions and for the benefit of all those who pass through, now and in the future. Problem is though, it costs money to do all this, and the station's new directions undoubtedly play a significant role in providing that funding. So there's the rub - it makes it all that harder to sell the place as a high dollar Eco-tourist destination, that helps to pay all those bills, when there's a bunch of people constantly tramping through for free. So you could probably figure that some potential owners might take a rather jaundiced view to trail walkers who's very presence may eat into the station's profitability and sustainability as an Eco-tourist venture.

Ironically, trail walkers would probably be best served by the new owners wanting to turn the property back over to a fully-fledged sheep operation, but at what cost to the land again? Those of us who love the outback would probably baulk at the idea of this 160 square kilometer property being given back over to the degrading aspects of sheep farming and the rampant destruction of feral animals - but the alternative?

One can only hope that the new owners will be happy to maintain the status quo and appreciate the significance and value of the Heysen trail, while those walking the trail also have to appreciate that circumstances have changed considerably since the trail was first mooted and established and that many a land owner along the trail who happily let trail walkers through in the past may now see them as an economic threat because of newly established tourist operations. A softly softly approach, and an appreciation for the new directions being taken, may be the best way to find an effective way to work with land owners and their new directions.

Of course, all this could be easily offset if a someone out there in Heysen trail land has 4 million or so to spare! Or you could pass on to all those walking through Arkaba station in future that if anyone else on the trail should stop and ask them how much they're paying to hike through they should say "Mate, you have no idea! They've got you by the balls here to get to Wilpena, and ask $1,000 a day for 'outsiders' just to camp on the property - per night!!". That might keep the new station owner's happy!

Finally, no, I'm not a representative of the station and have no connection to it. I just saw the news the other day on the upcoming sale and instantly thought about the potential ramifications for the Heysen trail. Like most things in life, this is a delicately balanced situation, and I hope it works out well for all parties so that the new owners can keep the place profitable, continue the exemplary work to return the station to near-pristine condition, and keep the trail readily accessible to all those with a love of the Flinders ranges and the Heysen trail.

Here's a couple of links for those that might be curious - some nice pictures of the property!
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