In an essay now available on his website, public historian Peter MacFie comments critically on the WHA extension
The secretive manner in which the WHA extensions were supposedly resolved has raised the ire of many Tasmanians, including public historian, Peter MacFie. While debate over the Tamar pulp mill - for all its drawbacks - was debated in the public eye, the WHA extensions were finalised without wider community input – thereby not developing “social licence”.
The lack of consultation with the wider community and other specialists, includes historians such as Peter, who, along with bee-keepers , specialty timber users and other Tasmanians, has felt marginalised by the process.
Five years ago Peter began an in-depth oral-history based study of the former ANM logging town of Maydena and its related Concession (1938-1997). Ranging from Wayatinah in the north to Mt Lloyd in the south, the Concession also included the Florentine Valley & Styx Valley areas which were heavily logged and reforested in the 1940s til 1970s.
During World War II the Styx Valley had a 16km railway spur line to feed the newly opened Boyer Mill near New Norfolk.
Starting production in 1941, Australia’s first newsprint mill fortuitously prevented newspaper rationing during World War II .
From Peter’s research the claim - via the online maps circulated- that these WHA extension are “Old Growth” is spurious. Accompanying detail on Peter’s website - including maps and photographs – easily rebuffs this claim.
Conflict with the Mt Field National Park Board in 1948 over the Florentine Valley’s addition to the ANM Concession caused Tasmania’s first conservation controversy. This was initially outlined in Peter’s 1992 study on a History of Mt Field National Park undertaken for PW&H . Led by the Hobart Walking Club and the Park Board, the basis for the opposing camps in the later Lake Pedder campaign was established.
From the Florentine Valley controversy to the Lake Pedder campaign, Peter’s extended family was also drawn into the conflict. Along with Jesse Luckman and others - his father’s sister, Nancy Wilson neé McFie with husband David (a WWII Lancaster bomber navigator) were advocates of the conservationist side - while his father – the late Henry H. McFie- had retrained post-war as a civil engineer and, as a life long employee of the HEC, was busy designing the dams which were the cause of later controversy.
Peter laments the lack of use of historians other professionals in the debate over the WHA, and with his wide research experience and background is thereby ideally placed to present an objective view as an historian and a member of the Tasmanian community on the WHA controversy.
He hopes that this example will encourage other agencies to make use of historians in such enquiries, who will also give fearless objective but background analysis into our island’s past .
EARLIER today on Tasmanian Times: • GetUp: The fake environment group ...