Wolves circling in the wilderness

An article by Bob Brown in The Mercury 13 Nov 2014.

I AM not surprised a powerful minority in the tourism industry wants to remove the word “wilderness” from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The authenticity of that word gives Tasmania world renown but it is a stumbling block for exploiters.

Recherche Bay
Recherche Bay is just outside the World Heritage Area. Picture: Bob Brown

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area helps define the word “wilderness” around the world.

There are 1007 World Heritage properties but only Tasmania’s has “wilderness” in its name.

This premium wilderness brand gives us a head start in attracting people seeking to visit natural regions.

Wilderness is wild, remote and pristine country.

It’s how all planet Earth was during most of the 70,000 years since we humans emerged with our remarkable intelligence.

That is, Antarctica excepted, it is the land of pre-industrial humanity.

Wilderness nurtured our developing brain and every human being remains bonded to it, hence the popularity of David Attenborough’s television series on the wild Earth.

The pioneering 1964 US Wilderness Act stated that “a wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognised as an area where the Earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man”.

Wilderness is absent the impact of modern technology.

Diminishing wilderness areas in Borneo, the Amazon, the Arctic, and the “Red Heart” of Australia remain inhabited but, like the Tasmanian wilderness, none is likely to be left in peace or respected by modern materialism.

The TWWHA includes Aboriginal cultural sites, rare wildlife, tall forests, glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains and some of the world’s wildest remaining rivers and coastline.

Its wildness is its unifying and superlative feature.

Now the Hodgman Government plans to throw that wildness to the wolves.

I can understand the developers, their motivation is money. The white-shoe brigade would readily set up a casino in Westminster Abbey.

The Hodgman Government’s plan to offer monopoly spots in Tasmania’s prime wilderness for exclusive “eco-tourism” resorts is a money-maker’s dream, especially with the on-sale potential.

Why not a coffee shop on Federation Peak? Because the vital qualities of remoteness and pristineness which make it Australia’s most celebrated wild mountain (it was not climbed until 1949) would be degraded or destroyed and the outcry would be global.

Those moving behind-the-scenes to have the word “wilderness” dropped from the TWWHA entertain the absurd idea that if it is not called wilderness, then it will not be wilderness — and suddenly no one will care.

Former Tasmanian Democrats MP Norm Sanders called such exploiters of wild nature “biostitutes”. They would rob Tasmanians, now and forever, of an irreplaceable resource that gives our island international kudos, a multi-million dollar annual attractiveness and thousands of jobs.

Invading the World Heritage wilderness with modern structures is counterproductive — like gutting the goose that laid the golden egg.

It is also unnecessary — fabulous resorts sites offering seclusion and natural spectacle are readily available outside the World Heritage area.

My own former homeland in the Liffey Valley offers crystal-clear streams with platypuses and upsweeping views of Taytitikitheeker (Drys Bluff), which is loftier than Mt Wellington.

Besides the beautiful Liffey Falls, the valley has an abundance of marsupials and native birds for visitors to spotlight, feed and photograph.

The environs of Recherche Bay, just outside the TWWHA, could support an exciting public exhibition centre to highlight the Lyluequonny people’s friendly hosting of D’Entrecasteaux’s scientific expeditioners in 1793.

Nearby is privately owned land fit for any genuine “eco-resort” developer.

The Tarkine already has a resort and tavern at Corinna beside the majestic Pieman River. Historic Waratah with its magnificent waterfall in its centre is an eco-developers’ dream. South of Burnie, the luxurious Tarkine Wilderness Lodge shows how it is done — it is set on a high hill with a 360 degree panorama of rainforests and a short walk down the hill is a gargantuan myrtle encrusted with ferns.

King Island has some of the wildest beaches on Earth. The British barque Cataraqui was wrecked there in 1845 with only nine of the 409 people aboard surviving.

I was on that Cataraqui Coast recently, leaning against the maelstrom of a westerly buster, experiencing both its wild beauty and echoes of terror. The following days were sunny, tranquil and a beach-walker’s delight.

King Island has stunning private coastal land available for eco-tourism, but where is it on Premier Will Hodgman’s “go get it” list for developers?

Closer to Hobart, the Styx Valley of the Giants is in the TWWHA, despite Premier Will Hodgman’s efforts to keep it out. Why not give this tall-forest wonderland a government-run reception and display centre with good coffee or a merlot or two?

A few weeks ago the road to the Jubilee giant trees, where a wheelchair-friendly path would be a cinch, was blocked by fallen trees.

The state built this road for logging but hasn’t used allocated Commonwealth funds to keep it open for the many more jobs and businesses in Tasmania dependent on tourism.

Over the past century hundreds of thousands of nature-lovers strove to protect Tasmania’s iconic wilderness.

Yet now the Hodgman Government, not one member of which was in the vanguard of that saving multitude, is set to give its plum sites to private exploiters.

Mr Hodgman’s open invitation for developers to choose any World Heritage wilderness location is shortsighted and the consequent move to drop the word “wilderness” underscores the banality of the plan.

The living wilderness has brought Tasmania worldwide fame but the wolves are circling.

Bob Brown

Read this article in The Mercury here.

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