While the Gunns 20 lawsuit draws increasing levels of cheese out of the Greens, a watershed clash between tourism and forestry is looming in the far-south of Tasmania.

The Recherche Bay Historic Site offers the greatest economic potential the far south has ever seen, yet the Tasmanian Government is about to allow this magnificent potential tourism asset to be sullied via logging.

But while the largest forest protest in the state’s history approaches, the Greens appear to be stuck fast on a rock of cheesy symbolism.
In fact, I think jangling keys, holding up individual log trucks in the middle of Hobart, regularly taping mouths for the media and making statements referring to “we defenders of the forests” is more than just any old cheese – its pure gorganzola.

And its having results – I’ve noticed a distinct move recently towards dissociation between those interested in better outcomes from our forests, and the Greens political party.

I do hope the Greens wake up to today’s reality quickly – those who are serious about achieving concrete outcomes need to eschew this empty and selfish symbolism or risk it becoming a fillip to the other side of the debate.

People interested in a concrete and worthwhile outcome into the future, not yesterday or last century, have to ignore the lawsuit, the symbolism and the cheese. Instead, they should investigate the road to Southport and prepare themselves for an encounter with the long arm of the law.

This area has the best and least-developed tourism assets

The issues at the Recherche Bay Historic Site may be forestry based, but the debate revolves around the various economic futures that this Site offers to the far-south region.

The usual environmental suspects – endangered species, biodiversity, poison trespass and/or declining groundwater resources – are not actually big issues on this Site. The main game is the international cultural significance and related tourism potential of the Site for the under-developed far south region.

The Tahune Airwalk has been a stunning success for Geeveston in particular and the Huon Valley generally. It has been especially valuable in getting tourists of the east coast-midlands highway-west coast loops that cut southern Tasmania from many touring itineraries.

But the region south of Geeveston is still missing out – for them the old loop issue still exists, with tourists now coming as close as Geeveston before once again heading north.

In short, the far south lacks a big attraction, a Tahune Airwalk of its own. As a result, the tourism boom is passing by the Dover-Southport-Hastings-Lune River region and so are the related investments.

But this region has some of the best and least developed tourism assets in the state. There is the Hastings Caves complex, the undeveloped Exit Cave experience(s), the undeveloped Lune River gemfields, the fishing and sandy beaches from Dover to Deep Hole and the undeveloped entire petrified tree that has remained hidden for years now.

Awesome international drawing potential

Why a glass bottomed interpretation centre has not been built over this amazing tree is anyone’s guess. But the Tasmanian Government has done nothing about the petrified tree, nothing about tourists looping back to Hobart from Geeveston and is now encouraging the destruction of a potential tourism asset with awesome international drawing potential.

While yet more community division and angst looms over logging this Site, the Tasmanian Government does have options. The best ignored option is for the Government to develop a tourism experience on the Site in conjunction with local businesses, Forestry Tasmania and the owners, the Vernon brothers. The addition of a public picnic area, a private accomodation complex, some hostel accomodation and a network of duckboarded tracks winding through the coastal forest and around the Historic Site(s) would obviously spark an unprecedented investment and tourism boom in the region.

I think it is imperative that the Vernon Brothers are given the opportunity to remain involved, either as active or silent partners, making any compulsory acquistion unnecessary while maximising their potential for future income from the Site.

Unfortunately this Tasmanian Government’s focus on logging will brook no dissent, an approach that is totally inappropriate for a Site with so much regional and international significance. But conflict and division seem to suit the Lennon Government and they currently appear intent on bulldozing this travesty through.

However, given the excellent road access to Southport and the current over-crowding at Risdon Prison, I’m wondering what the Tasmanian Government will do when people begin lining up for arrest to prevent the trashing of the best ever potential economic saviour for the far-south?

After all, if 4000-odd people can turn out in the Styx Valley on a wintry day in 2003, how many more are going to drive the far better roads to Recherche Bay in the summer/autumn of 2005?

The debate at this Site is not about the old divisions of Green versus Liberal/Labor or loggers versus environmentalists – its about the future prosperity of the entire far-south region of Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Government should think again if it believes Tasmanians, especially southern locals, will accept the ruination of the Recherche Bay Historic Site without a long and messy fight.

Jason Lovell is a political and social commentator for oldtt.pixelkey.biz


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