Updates: CDAA Access

20 October 2016 – Update

CDAA members should be advised that the Kilsby family has written to the National Committee to further clarify our position in light of the options presented to members for consideration and the inquiries received over the past week.

While this email was sent on Sunday 16 October 2016, at the time of posting this update, no response has been received.

The letter highlights the importance of members being aware of the reality of what their access would look like, should an agreement not be achieved through the CDAA.

In the interest of informed discussion, members should be aware that:

  • Kilsby Sinkhole does not provide access for individual divers without the existence of an access agreement which guides and informs said access.
  • Access agreements are only extended to appropriate entities who hold public liability insurance to a minimum of $20 million
  • Access outside the existence of an agreement with the CDAA means that members must access the site under the presence/guidance of an insured, current and appropriately qualified representative of the entity holding an access agreement. Noting the role of this individual as a guide, the extent of access to the underwater environment is limited to their training, their represented agency protocols and conditions of their insurance.

In most cases, the requirement of the above also repositions the activity into a commercial environment which naturally introduces profit margins to each diving slot.

In summary, members should note that, while access outside an agreement with the CDAA is possible, it looks very different than the access procedures and conditions previously enjoyed by members.

Further to the options presented, the Kilsby Family have asked that the National Committee allows members to consider the following access option, one that would have been acceptable to the Kilsby Family from the beginning, should we have been consulted both prior to the State Meetings or the position communicated following.

We solidly believe that this provides an appropriate compromise that allows the foundations of your principles to be maintained, whilst still observing and respecting our own principles as landowners:

  • CDAA members are granted exclusive access to the water during any diving activity undertaken by the Association. Note that within our site rules we class this as the entire area from the top of the walkway to the water’s surface – including the pontoon.
  • CDAA members are required to share the above ground facilities with other users of the site, including those who intend to dive and are not members of the CDAA. In line with the site rules, we’d expect all visitors would ‘respect the right of others to the equal access to the site and its facilities’ – this may include such things the use of the phrase ‘have a nice dive’.
  • Due to the requirement of exclusive use of the pontoon and underwater environment, a minimum amount of divers will be defined for each time slot and a maximum amount of time slots may be allocated to the CDAA per day. This will be defined by the Kilsby family, in consultation with site users, and will be driven by the principles of fair and reasonable access for all.

In the interest of members, we’d like it noted that, outside that of peak periods, we have never felt comfortable with the concept of requiring CDAA members to book all 12 spaces in a time slot to secure access.

As a condition to the model proposed, the Kilsby Family requested that the CDAA appoints an appropriate member who acts as a liaison to communicate effectively between the National Committee and the Kilsby family.

The primary function of this role will be to rebuild trust between both parties, restore diplomacy and mediate on areas of disagreement, should they arise, throughout the implementation and trial period.

The Kilsby family asked that the National Committee considers the timely presentation of this concept to members for discussion and consideration.


11 October 2016 – An open letter to members of the Cave Divers Association of Australia

The Kilsby Family is disappointed to announce that we have been unsuccessful in achieving a workable solution which allows us to reintroduce access to Kilsby Sinkhole for members of the Cave Divers Association of Australia.

As landowners, our family has held a long term relationship with the Association; one built over many years on the principles of respect, trust and mutual understanding. The past twelve months has significantly tested all facets of this relationship.

Our unwavering efforts to build fair and reasonable access to our site for a range of uses has been well discussed and debated. In an environment where communication is made particularly difficult, we’ve done our best to provide updates and information to ensure the discussion is open, transparent and accurately informed.

We recognise that our work has created a range of conceptual challenges within the CDAA and required a new degree of communication and discussion amongst its members. We appreciate that, to some degree, it has required the association to revisit the very principles under which it operates.

The access that we have been built has been well considered, carefully structured and is underpinned by a framework which works to manage risks and improve the delivery of safe, industry recognised, access to our private site. The diving activity occurring at Kilsby Sinkhole is legal, insured and can be achieved within broadly recognised industry standards.

Moreover, the way in which access is currently offered is something that, as landowners, we’re increasingly happy with. We regularly witness the absolute delight that visitors declare upon experiencing the sinkhole and we’re starting to work towards a model which allows us to host guests to our property in a manner of which we can be proud. Given time, the above water experience at Kilsby Sinkhole will continue to set new benchmarks through the facilities on offer.

The introduction of additional diving activity at the site involves stakeholders far greater than our family. The growth in visitation driven by our work has been met with relief and open arms by local hoteliers, accommodation providers and other local service industries.

Furthermore, an ever-growing amount of diving professionals have built additional viability into their operations by embracing access to a dive site which offers consistent and reliable diving opportunities all year round. This is particularly cherished when sea conditions create safety issues or offer reduced suitability for recreational diving activity or training.

In addition to our long term access relationship with the SA Police Water Operations Unit, over the past 12 months, we’ve hosted renowned photographers, senior school students, scout leaders, film makers, world champion freedivers and numerous international diving guests. More importantly, we’ve hosted husband and wives, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons – we’ve created experiences for people who share a love and appreciation for diving, not necessarily just diving in caves and sinkholes.

The above said we’re also very aware that the extension of recreational diving at the site has inadvertently introduced new interest in CDAA membership and training – something that created an exciting opportunity for the Association, but to date has not been embraced in any shape or form. In reality, the recent position of the CDAA is that, should you appreciate diving Kilsby Sinkhole, becoming a member of the Association will currently result in a return visit not being possible.

We’re aware that the condition of access to Kilsby Sinkhole was a focus during the recent state meetings. Given the very limited communication with the broader membership regarding the closure of the site, we can only trust that these meetings provided new levels of communication and an opportunity for informed, unbiased and transparent discussion.

This said, recent communication from the Site Director to members referencing ‘facts’ that similar activity in America results in divers ‘sneaking into sites’, ‘legal action’ and ‘potential loss of land’, our faith in this occurring had significantly waned.

Regardless of the delivery, we understand state meetings each ended with a ‘show of hands’ from those in attendance which have reinforced the position of the Directors and prompted the following key points in their recent communication with the Kilsby family:

  1. CDAA Members wish to uphold the position to ‘not support or encourage divers not trained in cave diving techniques to enter a rated site’. This principle is an ‘overarching philosophy that forms the foundation of the CDAA’
  2. ‘Support or encouragement of divers not trained in cave diving can be as simple as saying “have a nice dive” or condoning the dive by remaining silent’

As a result of the above, we have been presented with a proposal which would require our commitment to the provision of exclusive access (void of any other non-member with intent to dive) to the entirety of the property (above and below water) for members of the CDAA during any proposed visit to the site.

While to some this may sound achievable, given the current flexible access to the site, it introduces a range of unreasonable logistical hurdles which we believe have the capacity to introduce additional conflict. More importantly, it directly undermines the principles which have driven our efforts in building fair and non-exclusive access.

While we respect, and are continually open to, all discussions relating to how we can work together in furthering the CDAA’s own objectives in the delivery of safe diving practices, we wholeheartedly believe that further segregation and alienation from the rest of the diving industry is not the answer.

As we have been informed that it is the position of the CDAA Membership not to further negotiate on the terms of access, we must respect this position and accept that access will not be possible.

From the outset, we’ve challenged and encouraged your leaders to consider the opportunities that Kilsby Sinkhole can create for the CDAA, rather than focussing energy at undermining our efforts.

We believe that there are numerous models which could have been explored which would have benefitted all parties. Many members of the CDAA have themselves discussed/proposed concepts which would offer: 1) increased consistency in the diving practices at the site, and 2) a streamlined lead into further training and membership of the CDAA. There has seemingly been little interest from the Directorship in exploring these options with the Kilsby Family.

Consistently we have been presented with roadblocks, rather than opportunities for collaboration. As far as our current relationship stands, this will be the standing legacy of your current National Director and while some may support this approach, we’ve found it to be incredibly counterproductive and potentially damaging to the reputation of the CDAA within local circles.

We encourage the CDAA membership to consider that, while your National Director may come and go, landowners remain consistent and many are far less tolerant than us. Additionally, many landowners are following our experience with keen interest.

While at this stage, we feel as though we have exhausted our capacity to find a workable solution, should we ever be willing to revisit further dialogue, given the current attitude, we see little value in attempting this through your current representatives.

As a final note, we have been informed of the pending position of the CDAA Directorship to discipline members who continue to dive the site under an alternative access agreement (such as an alternative association, commercial operation, club or any other entity which may have secured a trial access agreement with Kilsby Sinkhole). This is despite this access being legal, insured and within recognised diving industry protocols.

While we question the legality of this position, particularly if the individual in question has a responsibility (employment/livelihood or otherwise) which reasonably appropriates their activity, we find this to be an incredibly disappointing, desperate and unreasonable position of the Association.

These actions, while well outside our control, directly influence any potential for a future working relationship.

As always, we welcome your constructive feedback, questions and ideas. Feel free to email us on mail(kombi)kilsbysinkhole.com or message us via facebook.

The Kilsby Family