*Pic: By Ted Mead on Pillar Cliffs

*Pic: By Ted Mead … of Cape Pillar

The Three Capes project impact. Pic: Rob Blakers, http://www.robblakers.com/

It is speculated that more than $40 million dollars has been squandered on the 3 Capes project so far, although the real $ figure is yet to be publically disclosed. The great injustice is that whilst taxpayers have totally funded the project, it seems the Liberal government and the Parks and Wildlife Service are tactically making as many moves as possible to discourage ‘freedom walkers’ from fully experiencing it.

After much consternation about restricting the public on the 3 Capes walk, the PWS has finally designated the 3 Capes public camping area to be the old campsite on Retakunna Creek. This will be indicated on the new 1:50,000 map, though PWS was extremely reluctant to provide that information to the Tas mapping department. This was probably in fear of it being a statement that the Capes walk is officially open to the general public, which is obviously not their agenda.

Retakunna Creek is far from an ideal campsite for those wishing to see the southern cliff region of Cape Pillar, which is the main attraction of the walk. Retakunna Creek camp is only about 1.5 hours from the road via the Agnes Creek track, and many hours away (a long-day return walk) from the scenic grand cliff areas further south.

Retakunna Creek is located deep in a rainforest valley and is a highly unpractical siting for a camp as it has a scarcity of level sites, no toilets, limited sunlight, and is directly downstream from the effluent sources of the village/hut area. The camp access track is poorly sited, steep, and unsuitable for high traffic volumes. It would probably cost another $ million to upgrade the track and campsite infrastructure, though financial expenditure has never been a concern on this project.

The decision to designate the Retakunna site as the only camp clearly indicates it is either –

• Park management incompetence at its zenith!

• Or chosen as the strongest option to discourage freedom walkers venturing along the track.

It would appear that in keeping with the department’s desire to make it an exclusive hut-based walk, then most of the southern campsites towards Cape Pillar may become closed to camping under the guise of environmental rehabilitation.

PWS do have the legal right to close campsites providing that they present public information and signage explaining the rationale behind the closures.

The possible closure of these campsites has nothing to do with environmental impacts or degradation, it is more about exclusive control over making it a hut-based walk by deterring camping in the region.

Closure of renowned campsites is a myopic view by PWS as bushwalkers will ultimately create new campsites that may be less manageable with higher environmental impacts.

Water sources are also unreliable south of the Munro hut area, so one could expect the department to attempt to prohibit walkers obtaining water from the hut storages as another deterrent.

Hut wardens are being employed to manage the immediate hut environs and infrastructure. These wardens are not Rangers and have no legal authority over the activities of bushwalkers and campers throughout the park. Hut wardens cannot issue directives against anyone wishing to bush camp in remote areas.

It would be unlikely that PWS will designate authorised Rangers to patrol the track to give directives to bushwalkers about where they can or cannot camp. PWS Rangers have no statutory legal grounds to issue infringements to bushwalkers camping freely in the park. Maybe the Director Peter Mooney will choose to establish a turnstile checkpoint so he can personally confront walkers to comply with the department’s dogmatic agenda? That may make him look even more favourable in the minister’s eye.

The Milford Track Precedent

Considering the government’s claimed that they have modelled the 3 Capes Walk on New Zealand’s Milford Sound Track then some parallels can be drawn between the two.

The Milford Sound Track was designed and constructed to be an exclusive commercial operation on public land. NZ bushwalkers (The Freedom Walkers) began using the Milford Track, as they believed it was their reserved right to visit the National Park. The commercial company objected to this activity and ultimately took the Freedom Walkers to court claiming exclusive rights were granted to them.

The commercial company lost the legal case, which resulted in the NZ government having to provide alternative huts and infrastructure to accommodate the public who wanted to visit the area.

Freedom walking in our National Parks is about your civil rights to see public places.

Taxpayers paid for this track and therefore reserve the right to walk and camp in the region.

So it seems civil disobedience should prevail.

Litigation between the State Government and ‘Tasmanian Freedom Walkers’ may yet decide where the public stands on visiting state-owned land.

• Su Chan in Comments: I can guarantee that there will be civil disobedience. Why should ordinary Tasmanians who have enjoyed this magnificent location for decades suddenly be denied access, handed a single choice of a third-rate campsite, or have to pay an extortionate rate to access a National Park? I can absolutely guarantee that what will happen is free-minded walkers will simply bash out campsites wherever it pleases them. That they will be forced to do so by PWS closing other campsites and harassing them is an act of environmental vandalism not by them, but by Parks who have created this exact situation in an attempt to squeeze out everyone but the rich tourists and milk them for as much money as possible. As a taxpayer, I have already paid for this upgrade, and I do not mind paying a reasonable amount to use it, but $500 (more than double Overlander’s fee, and there is no off-peak rate) is in no way reasonable.