Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


‘Not a likely scenario son’





The mid-70’s were interesting Tasmanian Times (pardon the pun). I was an Examiner reporter and the word ‘conserve’ was making its way into the sub-editorial lexicon.

I went with a group of bush-walkers into the wilderness of the Tasmanian Highlands. A popular spot, a Mecca for high-altitude prognostication on a most unusual subject, paraphrased as a paradox: those who love ‘pristine’ are in fact destroying.

And so with cameraman, Ross Dearing and a hardy group of bushwalkers we trudged, trudged, trudged up well-worn, culvert-deep, precipitous goat-tracks where rain caused rivulets and snap, snap, snapped the hallowed panoramic spectacular known to the off-the-beaten-trackers as the Walls of Jerusalem.

I had a great day and night out with conservationists and waxed descriptive lyrical.

“It has suddenly dawned on me why conservationists get so emotional over places like this.

It is not just the aesthetic quality of towering snow-bound mountain peaks; of swirling sleet-filled mists; of glassy-tarns and lakes and raging mountain streams that move minority groups to scream the word that echoes from the Walls of Jerusalem all the way to the halls of Parliament…CONSERVE!

It is also the delicate life forms of flora and fauna that can be thrown into imbalance even at the passing of a score of trudging boots – the vast and colourful carpet of lichen, moss and alpine grass, and the myriad of microscopic animals that thrive beneath it are always at risk at the presence of man.

No matter how considerate he is, the intrusion of man detracts from this fragile, yet rugged, harsh and forbidding world.

It is this natural environment that comes man to escape the pressures of civilization and seek refuge in the in the world he quit thousand of years ago.

And there is the paradox – by its mere attractiveness, the wilderness is threatening to self-destruct. “

This was written in December 1976 … and the piccies told the story of snow in the summer highlands, years before global-warming would enter the global environmental lexicon.

This was a time of government stability, before Green entered the Tasmanian political lexicon.

It was a time before Bob Brown, Christine Milne and Peg Putt, names poised to enter the annals of iconic, trouble-making bastards. It was a time before enemies of balanced reporting, tribed-up with poisoned arrows to shoot the messenger who might want to bring industry or progress into the equation. It was a time when a journalist was truly chosen for his/her balance and fairness, not sneaked into the club with an agenda burning feverishly into the fingertips. It was a time before the easy-to-manipulate Y-gen got a Guernsey in the news-reporting scheme of things, a time when journalists were hand-book descriptive of the socially-lonely; when editors, news editors, chiefs of staff and subs hollered at a word that might even remotely hint at bias.

“Do a re-write son.”

It was a time when a stand against the old order came from individuals as David Scholes, fly-fishing bomber-pilot hero of a now forgotten war flew a sorty or two against Hydro and forestry operations.

A time when blokes took it on the chin when the ore ran out and the mines shut down…and timber mills closed as interest-rates climbed and demand dipped…and demand for compensation would have been blasphemous.

It was a time when an unknown came into The Examiner and editor Mike Courtenay accompanied him from his office to my desk and Bob Brown, a gentle non-assuming locum doctor from Liffey handed me an essay of screaming children leaping from the lines of a fictional nuclear-war piece.

It was probably the first of my stories that, with the essay, went into the bin. I wish I had have kept it as a souvenir … of changing times.

“Not a likely scenario son,” muttered Herb Connell, iconic Examiner news editor.

I guess Bob went home and waited for the non-story to appear. He may have read the mood, looked at a map, poked a pin on the Franklin River, muttering, ‘not a likely scenario, Tasmania’.

Perhaps the great paradox of all is that those mid-70 articles with its ‘conserve’ –word continuum, were the collective genesis of inevitable political change…and a grand regional newspaper, The Examiner, too often a target for sometimes irrational attack, was the cause of it.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Dr Kevin Bonham

    August 10, 2011 at 2:25 am

    A minor point but no, elimination of natural water flow is not pollution. Pollution involves addition of substances, not subtraction. It could reasonably be called a form of habitat [i]degradation[/i] though, or some other similar term.

  2. hugoagogo

    August 9, 2011 at 3:49 am

    #2 and subsequent;

    For Scholes the good old days were the 1950s when the mayfly hatches on the Macquarie, Esk, and Meander systems were in full swing. If these hatches have declined since then as is oft claimed I daresay the primary culprit would be agricultural practices, particularly continual insecticide use.

  3. Dr Kevin Bonham

    August 9, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Re #5 I understand Lake Sorell has been frequently closed in recent times, but that’s because of carp, not forestry. Where is the empirical evidence of an impact of forestry activities on trout populations or catch sizes in the form of before and after studies? Trout are, of course, a catastrophic ecological pest in their own right – probably far more damaging on a threatened species level than forestry – and it might well be argued that the fewer we have of them here the better. But still, I understand their economic importance.

    As for river flow, the issue raised by Scholes was pollution rather than river levels. But even assuming we explore the river levels angle as well – is it not also the case that the damming of rivers has created/expanded large water bodies that in many cases are enjoyed as trout fishing locations in their own right? Can we look at the state of the Tasmanian freshwater fox (ok, trout) fishery now and say that it is destroyed and the picture is gloomy? If so can we show it was precisely because of these factors? Please bear in mind that I come from a fishing family and so all estimates of the size or quality of past stocks will be automatically scaled down by a factor of two to account for anglers’ exaggerations of the size of their previous catches. 🙂

  4. Dr Kevin Bonham

    August 8, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    So were Tasmania’s trout fishing waters “destroyed” by “inevitable pollution” from hydro and forestry as claimed? What is the actual scientific scorecard on these points three and a half decades later? Tin Tin (#2) seems to believe Scholes was proved right but where is the evidence specifically as it relates to trout fishing?

  5. Paul Tapp

    August 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    #1 and2, a journalist’s principal target in covering courts, exposing rorts, reporting opinions of respected men like Scholes and victims of corporate greed as saw-millers and truckies, is to make those elected to listen and act.

    But the ‘club’ they join elevates them from individual representatives to an elitist group whose principle motivations are self-interest.

    As a journalist in my The Examiner and early ABC days , we dealt face-to-face with the elected and Cabinet Ministers, such as Neil Robson who also railed against trail-bikes and woodchipping effects on our rivers and lakes.

    Examiner editorial staff treated with much suspicion any statement from the government and often the directive to journalists was, ‘go to the minister son’.
    “But he’d be in bed, Mr Connell.”
    “Get him out of bed, son. You’re his boss!”
    “OK, Mr Connell.”
    “Call me Bert, son.”

    Today the new generation of journalists have grown into the environment; press statements from an army of former journos, now running government press offices.

    Elected members, including ministers do not act without the office of smoke and mirrors, the media office.

    The principle role of the journalist is to report to its readers and broadcast audience. Woodchipping was in its infancy in 1976 abouts.

    The heavy investments in machinery and trucks went ahead in a resource that most thought an endless one. Environmental impact was no more than an esoteric concept…except to individuals as Scholes and Robson.

    Wayne Baker, President of the professional fishing industry warned of members’ thinking of huge capital investment to trawl-fish Orange Roughey, a CSIRO-promoted ‘endless fishery’. His members heeded Baker’s warning and only lawyers and doctors who rushed into investing in the Roughie-Klondike, got their fingers’ burnt, when the resource was over-exploited and died.

    Truck-drivers and wood-chip contractors should have been much more circumspect about investment versus resource/markets matters. Some have been manifestly compensated. Others will go bankrupt. The warnings of pubic awareness too have been in place since the days of David Scholes…and duly ignored.

    Those demanding compensation must be scorned by investors losing collective billions in the present global-markets free-fall.

    At the end of the day, its simply a gamble. Family men who followed their instincts and stayed away from huge investments and poor forestry contracts are well in front.

    Only a handful of ‘grumpies’ like Scholes came out bravely in support of the environment, when the chainsaws rent the air in hallowed fishing country. Today they are in armies,outranking the poor buggers who go to the bar in sawdusted-singlets after a hard day in the bush.

    This inevitability was set in train in the mid70’s. But our elected representatives weren’t listening. And again those who elected them are suffering.

  6. Westy

    August 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Is this final proof that history teaches us that we learn nothing from history …

Leave a Reply

To Top