The Hollow Men (1925), a poem by T. S. Eliot (Wikipedia here)


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!


In the wooded areas of Tasmania the opening lines of the 1925 poem by T.S.Eliot, written five years after the then Forestry Commission was created, was applicable at that time, was reinforced in 1948, again in the 60’s and 90’s, and fully evident in 2012.

It appears that the innate culture of our Forestry GBE was developed in a very early timeframe; honed during the period of and after the Second World War; and fine-tuned over the past 20 years since the demise of the Forestry Commission in what has been described by one Government insider that it appears that a “shadow” has paralysed all their activities so they are unable to act, create, respond, or even exist.

The next lines of that august poem aptly describe the emotional and intellectual state of this anachronism of a Jurassic economic entity in the 21st century, viz:

Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar


So what epiphany did I have during my 15 days in Bali and Lombok in mid-June to create this metaphor of the emerging dismal swamp. My lovely wife Annette gave me the full verses of Eliot as a wedding anniversary present and the calming environment of Ubud allowed the formation of this commentary.

Let me take you on a brief journey of the history of the Hollow Men of Forestry Tasmania. (All of this is courtesy of some dear friends named later in the article).

In the 1920’s after the creation of the Forestry Commission, there was a concerted effort by those in charge to recover forested areas that had been sold or leased to “private interests” in order to access potentially commercial reserves.

This activity was placed on another plane during the late part of the Second World War and the late 1940’s under the auspices of one Colonel Lane (Forest Demarcation Officer) and one S.L.Kessell. (Conservator of Forests)

The writings of Mr Kessell have particular relevance to the inherent culture of the Hollow Men. In a number of epistles to the Government and the Minister for Forests, Mr Kessell categorically reinforced that “surveys of potential private land for acquisition was not needed”; “assessment was not necessary before dedication”; and the objective was to “create boundaries of convenience” to ensure maximum reserve aggregation.

Moreover identified private parcels were always categorized as being “over- valued” and should be readily acquired “for a fraction”. This was straight after WWII, and times were tough for the average private citizen, particularly if they were land holders!

How pertinent the next lines of the Eliot poem:-

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

A very pertinent example at that time (1948) was the case of one D.J. Burns who held some 49 acres in Golden Valley. Mr Burns had at one time held ownership of some 62 acres immediately adjoining this property and had “given it back” due to financial circumstances after “spending considerable monies on scrubbing the property”.

Mr Burns was in need of reclaiming the property to assist his son who “had fallen on hard times having lost sight in one eye” and needed“ a capacity for earning a living” by accessing some small timber on the 62 acres for rail and post supply to the local community.

After some internal debate amongst the Hollow Men this most reasonable request was rejected as the minuscule area (and remember that Forestry was seeking at the time to assume some 4 million acres of “alienated” private and Crown Land in this period) had Eucalyptus trees of some 4 to 20 years growth.

Adjacent to this block a number of similar size private properties were acquired in the Golden Valley, Liffey and Quamby areas because “the soil and weather conditions were conducive to future plantation growth of pinus radiata”.

How does that plantation bent sit with the need for FT to secure the 62 acres of new growth E. Gigantea (their description) and prevent Mr Burns and his family from earnings potential?

Pure bloody mindedness and greed I suspect.

Despite being rejected, Mr Burns held out in the face of the assault on his neighbours and retained the now land-locked 49 acres. That private title still exists.

I suspect a few more lines of the poem describe the situation:-

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


But the Hollow Men were not finished….

In a series of remarkable property dealings and Title aggregations the Forestry entity secured over the succeeding 40 plus years a vast swathe of private and Crown Land Reserves under mysterious Rights Issues, Property Resumptions and Land Swaps, famously in 1990. ( I will let John Hayward comment on this one. TT: The Great Tasmanian Land Robbery )

All of these dealings are detailed in the fully researched article below. (This detail is courtesy of Bronwyn Williams and Maggie).

So where are the Hollow Men now?

Let’s review the poem again for the answer…

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star


Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

And the last piece of the poem states…..

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long


Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow


Without a doubt, over the past 85 years, the evidence points to the fact that the Forestry GBE, and successive Ministers have indeed acted as the Grim Reaper!

By the way that landlocked property that D.J.Burns so assiduously protected in 1948 from the Hollow Men is now mine = Myrtlebank!!!

Thank you D.J.Burns!

AND all of the research explicitly shows that Mountain Road, my only access route, was a Crown Land Reserved Road in 1930, was still one in 1948, remained that way in 1991, and is still a RESERVED ROAD in 2012 – supported by two legal opinions and DPIPWE!

Despite what the Minister and the Hollow Men assert, it is NOT a Forestry Road that requires me to pay homage and funds to access.

Bryan Green, Bob Gordon and the Board of FT are indeed both Hollow and Strawless!

The canary in the mine – “BA388D” – is singing loud and clear in the snowy 820 metre elevation just below Projection Bluff!!!!

Land Titles research by Bronwyn Williams and Maggie – Many Thanks.
Full poem and depictions from:-

• All About the Land Titles, a revealing history



The area surrounding JL Powell’s property was initially alienated to private titleholders via Crown grant, or purchase from the Crown.

During the 1930s, 1940s (particularly the post-war years – see 1945/46 investigation into forest reserves – the Kessell report – attached), 1950s and 1960s the Forestry Commission progressively ‘reacquired’ many private holdings with the intention, once a suitable continuous parcel had been purchased, of dedicating the amalgamated holdings as State forest, and eventually converting them to plantation.

The original private owner of JLP’s property was Donald Burns (aka John Donald Burns, Donald Berne and Donald Bernes). Mr Burns’ father, Thomas Burns (or Bernes) also held property in the Liffey district (County of Westmoreland). In 1948,Donald Burns attempted to revive an application he had previously made to purchase an area of approximately 62 acres adjacent to his 49 acre holding (JLPowell’s property). His application was rejected by the Lands Department, because the Forestry Commission had indicated an interest in the property. He pleaded his case on the grounds that he wished to set his disabled son up with a piece of land, but the Lands Department, and the Forestry Commission decided against his request. Correspondence file is attached.

The exact area for which Donald Burns had made application was reserved as State forest in June 1949. It was adjacent to existing state forest, but had a frontage to the Lake Highway. Burns’ holding of 49 acres (JLPowell’s property) was effectively landlocked by the refusal of the application.

This may explain why, when surrounding properties were ‘reacquired’ by the Forestry Commission in the 1970s and 1980s, and converted to plantation, Donald Burns’ property remained in private hands. The family may have borne a grudge against the Forestry Commission. An early assessment of the surrounding parcels (seePurchase Proposal attached – 1966/67) nominated Burns’ property as a Category 1 acquisition, necessary to establish a plantation estate in the area.

Some of the Forestry Commission acquisitions took several years to negotiate and complete, particularly the purchase of several parcels in the area from RA Woodland – offered for sale in 1955, sale completed in 1963. Record keeping was not as good as it should be – in the case of a purchase from Crack, Forestry Commission file notes indicate that the ‘file was lost’ and ‘the Valuer did not notify (FC) of the completion of the sale.’

The Liffey Plantation Project was approved in March 1978, and Forestry Commission acquisitions expanded beyond the parcel noted as ‘Transferred to Her Majesty the Queen’ on the Westmoreland District map. The eventual extent of the holding is shown in current LIST map as ‘State Forest’, and designated Folio Identifier 1/351759, and associated titles.(The Premier at the time, Robin Gray, rather quaintly referred to the establishment of forest plantations as ‘agroforestry’.)

Four properties in the vicinity remain in private hands –

Folio Identifier 209528/1 – JL Powell
Folio Identifier 220464/1 – Rosemary Lorraine Williams (original grant to T Frankcombe, adjacent to JL Powell’s property).
Folio Identifier 241328/1 – Irina and Victor Milevski (part original grant to Clements and Marshall Pty Ltd)
Folio Identifier 105376/1 – Robert Lee (part of original grant to HS Berne, south of JL Powell’s property and fronting Highland Lakes Road).

[Why are the latter three still in private hands? How doesMs Williams access her property?]

Although Donald Burns’ (JLPowell’s ) property was landlocked, access was available to the Lake Highway via a reserved Crown road (now known as Mountain Road). The 62 acre holding was gazetted as State forest ‘exclusive of reserved roads’. The ‘reserved road’ status is apparently still in existence. Despite the enactment of the Public Land (Administration and Forests) Act 1991, and the designation of the original 62 acres as Multiple Use Forest, there is nothing to indicate that the status of the road as a reserved road has changed.

[Note that the Forestry Act 1920 defines a ‘State forest’ as a ‘land dedicated as State forest under this or any other Act’.]

When purchases to guarantee road access to forested areas east of JLPowell’s property were being considered in the late 1960s, a Forestry Commission file note indicated that the reserved road now known as Mountain Road should be maintained to facilitate possible westward expansion of the gravel pit to the east of JLPowell’s property.

Currently, the DPIPWE website defines a ‘reserved road’ as follows –

‘A reserved road, also known as a surveyed road, is a strip of Crown land usually 20.12 metres wide which has been retained by the Crown for future road access by private landowners to their private property.

The general public does not have a right to enter upon, or use a reserved road. A licence is required to authorise the use of a reserved road.

Adjoining landowners may apply to purchase, lease or licence reserved roads that they have identified.’

Further, the Crown Lands Review position paper, dated April 2009, considers the question of reserved roads, and notes as follows –
‘One option to deal with these issues would be to make a legislative provision to give any private land adjoining a reserve road that does not have frontage to a public road or highway; or any alternative access to a public road or highway, a statutory vehicular and pedestrian right-of-way to a public road or highway. Responsibility for construction and maintenance would fall to those landowners who have a right to use the road for access purposes. These works would be administered through the planning process.’

Sounds like a good idea, but nothing further has been done about it (much like everything else in Tasmania).

The area adjacent to JLPowell’s property, fronting Highland Lakes Road, and traversed by Mountain Road, is now noted as ‘Multiple Use Forest’ by Forestry Tasmania.


Who paid for the properties surrounding JLPowell’sproperty, that were acquired by the Forestry Commission/Forestry Tasmania? Did Forestry fund the purchases from their own earnings, or did the government front the cash? The former is not likely since the government ‘took over’ the Forestry Commission’s debt of around $270 million in 1991.

Who held the titles to these properties? Did the Forestry Commission have freehold title, or was title vested in the Crown, and no paper titles issued?

The bulk of those previous titles are now arranged as follows – a single Folio Identifier 1/351759 covering what was referredas the ‘Liffey Plantation’. Within that plan are a number of ‘related titles’ with different folio identifiers, such that a search of the larger plan shows five disconnected parcels. The remainder, as noted, comprises several separate, individually identified parcels – parcels within a parcel, plans within a plan, if you like. The five disconnected parcels appear to represent land that was ‘unallocated Crown land’ at the time plan number 135791 was registered, plus the 62 acre State Forest noted above, and an adjoining area of ‘Reserved Timber’, up to the boundary of the Liffey Forest Reserve (and adjacent to JL Powell’s property).

[The Liffey Forest Reserve was included in the Tasmanian World Heritage Area in 1989.]

Given that the purpose of the Torrens system of title registration is to provide a unique folio identifier for each parcel of land, and therefore security of ownership, the title array in the Liffey area is very unusual. In the Torrens system, a single folio identifier only refers to more than one parcel when a parcel is broken up by natural boundaries such as a river or stream, or by easements over the property. Even then the separate parcels are adjacent to each other.

The LIST system notes ‘the Crown’ as the titleholder of all these related properties, including Folio Identifier 135791/1. A dealing registered in June 2001 on the title to 135791/1 (a ‘$’ dealing) is an internally-generated Land Titles Office dealing, created for the purpose of registering other interests on the title, i.e. the Gunns Forestry Right dealing # C446473. A title search indicates that the parcel was registered in the name of the Crown pursuant to s27A of the Land Titles Act, and ‘Granted to the Crown.’

‘$’ dealings also appear on at least two properties reacquired by the Forestry Commission/Forestry Tasmania in 1994/1995 – Folio Identifier 210428/1, acquired by Notification, $ dealing 6384132 dated 02.12.94, and Folio Identifier 234671/1, surrendered by Transfer, $ dealing 5897572 dated 22.03.95. These are the only two titles I have checked. I assume the other ‘related titles’ will show similar dealings.

(The Forestry Commission was retired as manager of the forests, in massive debt, and replaced with the GBE Forestry Tasmania in 1994.)

Prior to the grants to private owners, and after reacquisition by the Forestry Commission/Forestry Tasmania, the parcel now known as 135791/1, and the associated titles, were Crown land. After reacquisition,no titles were issued until they were needed for the purposes of registering forestry rights.

Could these titles be part of the Land Swap? Land reacquired from private owners by the Forestry Commission/Forestry Tasmania, and then vested in the Crown.

Also, who is the ‘owner’ of these properties for the purposes of receiving the proceeds of forestry rights?


• Mersey District Atlas – Forestry Tasmania – dated December 2003

• LTO Plan of Title Registered Plan P135791 – Compiled by Forestry Tasmania – issued 7 June 2001

• Map showing location of Coupe BA388D – Forestry Tasmania – downloaded May 2012, 3 Year Plan Location and Land Classification

These three maps show the boundary of State Forest area (containing Coupe BA388D) adjacent to JL Powell’s property to be consistent with the 800 metre contour level.

• Meander Register of Multiple Use Forest – compiled by Forestry Tasmania –Sheet 8214 Edition 5 1988 (Meander CPR 2249 – Registered 29.10.91).

This map shows a different, extended boundary for the area of State forest adjacent to JL Powell’s property. The area is designated Multiple Use Forest Land (copy attached).

Multiple Use Forest map
LIST map

• Open Letter to Bob Gordon

Mountain Road and Coupe BA388D

Dear Bob,

Over the past 12 months I have variously offered to purchase from FT the subject Coupe on the same commercial terms that Jan Cameron bought her substantial native forest collection from Gunns in late 2010; I have suggested that I would maintain the entire 44 hectares of the Coupe at my cost and save the financially stressed GBE the $20 a hectare/pa ongoing expense; and to maintain your so called “Forestry Road” that you have never maintained in 20 years ( The last owners asked FT to help, were rejected, and spent some $4000 themselves to roadbase and grade).

The last offer I made to you was in November 2011.

You have never once responded to these offers made in good faith.

Since then you have continued to advance the forlorn prospect of logging the coupe for economic gain. Based on costs provided within the mining industry I estimate you have spent approximately $150,000 on widening Mountain Road and advancing a metalled access road with pipe culverts etc 750 metres in to the coupe to the very edge of the Liffey Falls World Heritage Area.

The only outcome of this is some stacks of fallen trees that did not deserve to be there and substantive silt traverse towards the Liffey Falls, which on my last recollection was a World Heritage Area.
The pursued economic gain is for 75% chip; 20% peeler; and perhaps 5% sawlog for which you have no market; an A$ that precludes any possible positive return; and a declining world demand.
Gunn’s latest announcement that they will revalue their native forest asset, has prompted me to revise my offer to you.

Due to the factors described above I would assert the original price for the 44 Hectare coupe of circa $17,000 is now overpriced to the tune of at least 200%. Accordingly, and in good faith, I offer to purchase the entirety of the Forestry land to the south of Mountain Road, and bordered by Highland Lakes Road to the west, and the Liffey Falls WHA to the east and south for a total of $10,000.
This includes the 62 acres encapsulating the Reserved Mountain Road sought by DJ Burns in 1948 and cruelly rejected by the then Forestry Commission.

The attached map highlights the land sought for purchase.

On resolution of this sale I will immediately seek a covenant over the entirety of the acreage to compliment the covenant on my existing property. All of the inherent European and Indigenous sites therein included will be forever protected from the “Hollow Men”.