DEPICTING their design approach to Pumphouse Point as one of “rugged simplicity” and “unrefined comfort”, the architects might just as well have been describing the Lake St Clair retreat’s developer. One person’s “rugged and unrefined” might be another’s “rough and abrasive”.
But Simon Currant didn’t get where he is – developing Cradle Mountain Lodge before the power went in; Franklin Manor before foodie-ism; Strahan Village before West Coast tourism; Peppermint Bay when Woodbridge was a footnote; and take on development in the Wilderness World Heritage Area – without un-friending a few folk along the way.
“No, I’m not going to put bloody rice noodles on the menu,” he tells me on a misty morning over a communal table at Pumphouse Point. “This Government is populist. That’s why they’re welcoming all these Asians, which is fine, but not if the result is that our own very Tasmanian experiences get swamped and our visitors are rubbing shoulders with Asians, not Tasmanians. There’s a point – and don’t make me sound racist, because I’m not – but I want to go to Japan and experience Japan.”
I’ve never done anything in my life by what people think I should be doing.
Currant, renowned for his bluntness, doesn’t normally struggle for words. But the nature-tourism pioneer, member of the Order of Australia and former Tasmanian of the Year is searching for ways to express his concern for the state’s courtship of Asia and how it risks impacting Tasmania’s islander way of life.
He cites Queenstown in New Zealand, to which he has travelled for years, as an example of what not to do. “Practically every shop there is Asian-owned and I can’t walk up the street without being elbowed,” he says. “There’s a point where you have to stop looking after your guests” …