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


Environmental damage at Chauncy Vale

*Pic: The destructive creek reroute looking west


First published July 10

Some Background

Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1946, is one of the oldest private conservation areas in Tasmania. Much of the reserve (337 of the present 380 hectares) was gazetted in 1946 as a private wildlife sanctuary under The Animals and Birds Protection Act 1928 following application by the owners, Nan and Anton Chauncy. In 1988 the sanctuary was bequeathed to the local council (now the Southern Midlands Council) by Anton Chauncy with a later gift of the house and home paddocks by his and Nan’s daughter, Heather.

Chauncy Vale is located 40km north of Hobart and 4km east of the township of Bagdad. It is the top end of a narrow valley running east-west between the Midland Highway and the Coal River Valley. The Sanctuary is managed by the Chauncy Vale Management Committee in accordance with a statutory management plan (1993). A revised Joint Management Plan with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) was completed in 2010 which covers both Chauncy Vale and the TLC’s neighboring Flat Rock Reserve. Flat Rock Reserve (455 ha), was transferred to the TLC on 25th August 2006, in partnership with the Southern Midlands Council, Gunns Limited, and the Commonwealth and State Governments. The new reserve is managed jointly by the Southern Midlands Council, Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, and the TLC. Important natural values of Chauncy Vale and Flat Rock are listed in the tables below …

Visiting on Friday 6/7/18, as I have at least several times a year since 1971, I was taking in the approaches.

First and appropriately there is a clear sign on the gate describing how benign your visit should be.

Fig 1, The entry sign (note 20 tonne excavators are not explicitely banned).

Wandering in (after paying my donation) I checked the wonderful interpretation shelter, noting a sign including …


True words.

Continuing on into the reserve to the old interpretation/shelter shed (originally dumped by truck and set on blocks) I was considering the new verandah construction on the interpretation/shelter shed at the end of the vehicular access.

Looked good.


Moving around the shack I recoiled at a few large blackwoods chain-sawed down.

Blitzed area to the north of the shack with felled old blackwoods (looking west)

Very annoyed and completely puzzled at this damage I lifted my view and got a hell of a shock. I went to investigate.

A 150m long and 15m wide swathe has been butchered through the grassy woodland and forest around a large trench dug by excavator (20 tonne my guess), clearly to try and reroute the river away from the picnic ground.

Over the decades soooo much effort has gone into preserving such understory for the Vale’s birds and other wildlife.

I was appalled! Is this 2018 and not 1918?

The creek reroute looking east (left) and west (centre) and from the northeast showing the interpretive shed in the background.

I have since heard this is supposedly the old creek route but by golly it must have been a looonnng time ago, well before I started to visit. I’ve only ever known the area’s grassy woodland with substantial understory, perfect for many birds, bettongs etc.

I also doubt the creek was so straight, allowing very fast water. ANY reader having experience with trying to make water go straight let alone around corners we choose knows what will happen unless the drain is very well constructed and armoured. The water will go where it wants due to volume, speed and substrate.

Aside from the damage from clearing and digging what struck me was how crude the ‘investment’ was. No protection of the trench banks nor silt filter where it rejoined the old (that is ‘my’ old, the recent cobbled creekline.

Just a bloody great ditch already eroding away. Imagine what Council would have to say if you did this on your own block.

The outfall, where the trench meets the old creek

Views of the trench taken on 8/7/18, the bare banks already eroding

I can only imagine the Southern Midlands Council has done this as some ‘good idea at the time’ to protect their new verandah. But, I can’t fathom the Management Committee agreeing. I will find out and check the process carefully against the Management Plan.

Such rerouting would normally be to avoid dangerous flooding but the original creek simply doesn’t flood to anything but a mild nuisance to visitors (and then only every few decades).

I hear the rerouting was to avoid further undercutting of the bank along the picnic ground. Although the creek bank nearest the grounds erodes that is piecemeal, slow and natural. It’s actually stable thanks to tree roots and hasn’t changed much in the 47 years I have been visiting.

The ‘worst’ of the bank erosion showing water flow debris (not flood debris)

So what is at risk? It is not dangerous (the rim is fenced) nor any real risk to infrastructure, such as it is; certainly not the risk worth the damage of the ditch in my opinion.

The fenced and planted out rim of the picnic ground

I understand other attempts have been made to stop undercutting of banks but is it really serious enough to justify what I saw. I’d give that a resounding “NO”.

I see it as yet another (old fashioned) attempt to protect minimal infrastructure by dominating nature, not dissimilar in principal to protecting shacks from fire while letting virtually irreplaceable wilderness burn. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to ‘walk the walk’ and show we can live amongst nature without beating her into submission.

I saw trees planted on some crumbling bank to the east near the old shed used for junk – that’s appropriate, not playing with the watercourse per se in my opinion.

Is a couple of old sheds relined with pine originally plonked off a truck an excuse for major protective works even if they have new verandah?

The old creek (old as I know it) is cobbled, something that slows and buffers water flow.

The old creek looking west. The picnic ground is to the immediate left

Water will (well, does) rush down the new simplified canal and what’s the bet it will badly erode. In my experience of watching the progress of such crude intervention, water has a tendency to go where it will and the rerouting may well be to no avail.

I would love to see a cost benefit analysis, particularly the benefit list.

ndeed the biggest risk to flooding may be the huge stump shoved by heavy machinery (note the tracks) into the creek just below the interpretation/shelter shed, with the inevitable debris build up almost a dam in itself.

A very large stump pushed into the old creek bed which flows right to left

I have heard the works were the result of “an assessment and a plan” some time ago. So clearly, it is not emergency management.

I would love to see the assessment and planning involved including the impact surveys surely necessary for a reserve – including cultural heritage and threatened species.

Although not a ratepayer of the SMC I would like to know how much the works cost. Why not use the money to move the infrastructure a few metres south across to the slope and leave at the scars on the grassy picnic ground, already hardened ground.

I think a hint of the homocentric attitude applying is a swathe of dead wattles, so important for foraging yellow-tailed black cockatoos, that has been felled higgledy-piggledy on the west edge of the picnic ground.

Why? The saplings are too small to be dangerous to anything

I strongly suspect it was a bit of good old-fashioned tidying up’ (some of the stumps left alongside parking areas would easily wall tyres). Let’s hope more trees will not be felled or lopped for ‘safety’ or so leaf blowers can be wielded and ride on mowers swished about, a common next steps in such management.

To me, the damage is absolutely against the spirit of the reserve and the management ethos long and successfully applied; low impact. Up to this incident, management has been minimalist and very appropriate so why this sudden change to an aggressive style? I have my suspicions and it’s about yet more development and money. The cost of that reroute will have to be justified.

Maybe there’s a very good reason (it would have to be very with a V) for this action. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Perhaps Clarence City Council’s shennanigans with Rosny Hill has set new (casual) standards for management of local reserves given to councils. I certainly hope not!

I have yet to review the Management Plan for the Vale and I suggest everyone interested do so. It only lasts a few more years and considering what’s happened perhaps we should be wary of a rewrite. I know in 2010 the plan recommended an education officer focusing on the Vale and as far as I know that hasn’t happened in any regard.

I wonder if that has happened (actually I don’t have to wonder – its easy to guess). A roving ranger along the lines of the PWS Discovery Rangers would be great (as volunteers even), circulating between local reserves to get better value for visitors.

Please go and visit beautiful Chauncy Vale and see for yourself. Although the damage is at the bottom end of the reserve it is adjacent to the most accessible and well-used area, especially for not very mobile vistors. Its easy to find and visit.

Yes the damage (so far) is done and I may yet be wrong as and everyone agrees it is justified but maybe other ‘development’ is planned and worthy of close consideration by those who love this place.

Many of you have enjoyed Chauncy Vale and benefited from visits, sometimes over generations. It’s a genuine local wilderness, easily accessible, bathed in history both natural and anthropogenic, old and new.

We owe it.

*Nick Mooney has been a Tasmanian wildlife advocate for 50 years writing his first letter to the editor in early high school. He worked as a volunteer then as a biologist in PWS from 1971 to 2009. Key issues were researching peregrines and the impacts of pesticides and persecution with Nigel Brothers, developing raptor rehabilitation in Tasmania and conservation of eagles amongst forestry, facilitating responses to whale rescues, oil spills, reports of thylacine and wildlife disease. Nick started the government response to devil facial tumour disease and remains an advocate of a very strong, precautionary reaction to any evidence of foxes in Tasmania. Nick developed wildlife tourism to lift the profile of wildlife, most notably teaming with the late and great Geoff King to develop the devil restaurant concept. He has been a lecturer/guide in Antarctica 15 times and has helped with Reef Life Surveys. Nick often guides for Inala Nature Tours and Tasmanian Boat Charters and still does wildlife surveys, research and management, some paid, some as a volunteer. He continues to publish … having 47 refereed scientific and hundreds of less formal articles. He remains the Tas representative of the BirdLife Australia Raptor Group and most recently did advocacy for the Where Where Wedgie citizen science project.

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  1. MjF

    July 21, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    #14 … I’m looking forward to perusing your follow-up report, Halton.

    Can you add some extra images as well, please.

  2. spikey

    July 15, 2018 at 3:02 am

    The threatened wildlife poisoned by the fox farce has no voice for their contempt of precautionary principles.

    I hope all the quolls and devils and other threatened native species poisoned by 1080 and forestry practices mourn the temporary loss of this habitat.

    It’s disgraceful, really.

  3. Robin Charles Halton

    July 12, 2018 at 12:11 am

    #19 … Ted My assessment of the situation at Chauncy Vale is being compared to a land clearing exercise using the FPC as a base for soils and water protection.

    As a well versed and experienced forestry land manager it is obvious I have provided a fair and reasonable positive contribution for environmental protection.

    This gives Nick Mooney more enlightenment as to where to take this issue now, as a trail of environmental damage is likely to follow as the trench finds its own repose.

    It is also possible over forthcoming decades, during periods of flash flooding after period of drought, that the original watercourse may return, as nature takes its course over time.

    We are not talking about an extended long term geological natural river capture event over thousands of years, are we?

  4. Ted Mead

    July 11, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    #18 … Once again we see that Robin represents what’s wrong with conservative thinking in this world.

    The hypocrisy is overwhelming when one claims that “our dwindling natural environment is being destroyed without reason.”

    How can anyone who is a die-hard advocate for nature destruction through Forestry, Burning and pro-development liberal ideology claim there is something happening to our environment for no reason? This is contempt for your own sanity!

    You try to justify your lack of ecological understanding by saying “Forest practices experience has a huge advantage over those who don’t have it!”

    Furthermore you quote –

    A – “There’s no cover up here, and there is no stopping me from continuing to make positive contributions for the environment, either! “

    When have you ever made a positive contribution to environmental protection?

    B – “Improvements can only continue, even during my retirement, as I maintain a special interest in the natural world and its balance with development.”

    That’s more conservative nonsense. Balance? What balance? Everywhere all across the planet the environment is being heavily compromised under the guise of misguided balance!

    C – “persons who have been extensively trained, practiced and well versed with environmental protection”.

    Who are these people? Not STT butchers, Not PWS sell-out merchants, Not Tasfire pyromaniacs, Not the EPA government stooges, and as this article indicates .. Not the local council regulators!

    The only hope for change is action through our children, not the silly old coots of this current generation who are clueless, out of touch, and estranged from a connection to the natural world upon which we are totally dependent!

  5. Robin Charles Halton

    July 11, 2018 at 9:13 am

    #14, #15 … Geoffrey, the basics of the FPC comprising the protection of soils and water, can be applied to many situations other than forestry, eg within natural areas on farming properties, during housing development, during fire fighting mop ups and of course, on Reserves, but these are no better than having persons who have been extensively trained, practiced and well versed with environmental protection.

    Improvements can only continue, even during my retirement, as I maintain a special interest in the natural world and its balance with development.

    There’s no cover up here, and there is no stopping me from continuing to make positive contributions for the environment, either!

    Forest practices experience has a huge advantage over those who don’t have it!

  6. Geoffrey Swan

    July 11, 2018 at 3:20 am

    #4, #8, #14 … Robin, I do seriously need your assistance.

    Please, I am not being rude but I am totally confused over your stance about all things environment and forestry .. about which you appear to have knowledge and strong opinions.

    In this article you appear to be slamming the Council, or whoever has done this damage, and I certainly agree. But then in the next breath you appear to defend any forest practices actions which includes heavy machinery impacts.

    Am I missing something in your logic?

    Are you truly keen on protecting our environment from wanton human destruction, so much so that you and your wife, Thermos, camera and 1:25,000 maps in hand, along with your trusted Kombivan, choose to venture into the wilds and then report back?

    Or is this just a cover story to divert us from your other view that FT and STT can do no harm?

    And I don’t dare again raise your passion for piles of woodchip.

  7. Ted Mead

    July 10, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    #14 … “One thing that I have learnt with forestry is to keep the machinery ‘footprint’ to a minimum on native forest coupes, as it is virtually impossible to restore what nature has created over millions of years.”

    OMG – what planet are you living on?

    Since when has there ever been a touchy-feely sensitive footprint with forestry? The above images, or even worse, can be found on essentially every logging coupe in the state!

    Native forest, regardless of its biota representation, has taken millions of years to create, so what’s the distinct difference in your profound ecological assessment?

    To prove you are biased, you claim in #8 that “our dwindling natural environment is being destroyed without reason.”

    Then what the hell is clear-fell and burn … trashing Class 3 and Class 4 creeks; carving deep embankments to gain access; hardening of roads; and replanting in monoculture .. just to mention a few of your delusional beliefs?

  8. John Biggs

    July 10, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    The creek crossing has changed considerably.

    In 1947 I was one of the boys who built the Hutchins hut which taken by fire in 1967. We used to travel on the back of two Ford V8 lorries, and the crossing then was wide with a strong flow of water. The lorries used to rush it and on one occasion one got stuck. As I remember the dip was broad and shallow then, and not with the present higher banks. The flatter area further on and opposite the hut site was not chain sawed (at least in recent memory) but was quite flat and grassy. The lorries used to park there while we hauled building materials across the creek to build the hut. (In passing, I’ll mention that this was the best learning experience Hutchins afforded me. It is sad that the conditions we experienced and profited enormously by are not longer possible: must be by bus, accompanied by duly authorised adults, and insurance would rule the whole thing out anyway).

    The 1967 fires changed the whole ecosystem: less clear spaces, that grassy flat thickly populated by small wattles and more scrub, but on the upside much much more animal life, particularly poteroos. The creek then got silted up and I guess that was when the crossing became seriously diminished. It is always changing.

    That said, the Council has done a mug’s job of clearing the way here. I was on the Management Committee years ago, but if the current committee gave the go ahead I think they would have expected better than this crude mess.

  9. Robin Charles Halton

    July 10, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    I have no doubt that a field inspection will reveal more.

    Soon, very soon on a fine day, my wife and I will venture out from Sunny North Hobart to the frost-ridden hole behind Baghdad. She should be fine with her camera looking for native birds and fungi.

    I will covering the bush upstream and keying in the machinery disturbance, and the more likely post devastation phase that the foolhardy Council has created.

    One thing that I have learnt with forestry is to keep the machinery ‘footprint’ to a minimum on native forest coupes, as it is virtually impossible to restore what nature has created over millions of years.

  10. Russell

    July 10, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Re #8 … “It has drummed up concerns about our dwindling natural environment being destroyed without reason.”

    And in other articles you advocated logging in the Tarkine, etc.

  11. Russell

    July 10, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    What a disgraceful piece of ‘work’!

    Who did it?

  12. Chris

    July 10, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    “What does the member for Prosser, Jane Howlett have to say about this atrocity happening in her electorate?”

    Does she speak ?

  13. elk

    July 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    What does the member for Prosser, Jane Howlett have to say about this atrocity happening in her electorate?

  14. Robin Charles Halton

    July 10, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    The Green Ponds map Sheet, a newer series of maps, scale is 1:50,000, not 1:25,000 as I stated earlier, has crammed in much up to date detail that I often use a magnification glass.

    Another point .. the Chaunchy vale area lies within a low rainfall zone. It suffers almost seasonally from droughts, when either flash flooding or significant rain does occur as we had some weeks ago. Erosion will cause sedimentation downstream as the man-made trench tries to correct its position to that of the natural stream.

    Neighbours downstream should note events and contact council each time muddied waters and increased sedimentation is occurring on their properties downstream from the modified watercourse on the Chauncy vale reserve.

  15. Robin Charles Halton

    July 10, 2018 at 2:31 am

    #5 MJF … Yeah, I now see what you mean as I am not familiar with the area, although I do remember fiddling around with an old girl friend at the caves site back in the 60’s .. that’s all! Neither of us were impressed with what was on show – pretty dull and boring dry forest area.

    I managed to get hold of a copy of Green Ponds 1:25,000 map. 2015 edition. It clearly shows Browns Caves Creek over a distance of ~ 6 km drops in altitude from ~ 500 m down to 200 m where the shack is situated. Given the area of the watershed above being over 500 ha we are talking about a major stream as a Class 1 stream which should have a minimum of a 40 meter reserve either side from its outer banks.

    This is now a serious issue and needs to be followed up by the sort of experts that I mentioned earlier, but on top of that there needs to be put in place a remediation plan to revert to the status quo before the creek diversion as I think that there will be incredible problems with ongoing erosion all the way along the extent of the new trench and road as it, too, attempts to replicate the original watercourse back to the loose boulder and cobble base of the original stream.

    I will visit the site soon. It has drummed up concerns about our dwindling natural environment being destroyed without reason.

  16. Jo Bain

    July 9, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    I read this article with considerable horror this morning and was immediately in contact with pretty well everyone who I thought might be able to shed some light on the matter. Apparently the work has the blessing of the management committee and is being carried out to avoid the erosion that was causing the footings of ‘the cottage’ (presumably the interpretation shed) to become unstable. Heritage Tasmania is unaware of the works so one must hope they lie outside the boundary covered by the citation.

    As the article suggests, serious questions need to be asked of SMC as to the process that has led to this work (apparently being supervised by a ‘qualified hydrologist’ as it bears little resemblance to any creek remediation I have ever seen.

    In addition it seems to fit with the pattern of all too many projects carried out by Council – that is, in doing one job, three more are created, and the original job is not done to standard. Given their frequent complaints of insufficient budget to do what is necessary one might reasonably expect a more prudent approach to any work that they can support.

  17. Rowena McDougall

    July 9, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    This all looks a mess. Would be interested in following this up with Council, Parks & Wildlife & TLC.

  18. Mjf

    July 9, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    RCH … a small test for you:

    The catchment of Browns Caves Creek above the disturbance is easily > 500 ha

    What classification of stream is that, and what size buffer would normally be required at the hut ?

  19. Robin Charles Halton

    July 9, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Councils should make contact the Forest Practices Authority for a consultation with their Specialists in Hydrology/ Geomorphology to obtain professional advice on how to correctly manage a Nature Reserve “under their control.” Ugh!

    I am not sure if NRM South would be of much help in this regard as there are issues here of mechanical interference with a natural water course, probably a Class 4 stream that requires at least a 10 metre buffer zone.

    The initial work required a proper written plan with on-site instruction for the excavator operator, so now is the time for a Rehabilitaion plan!

    Oh dear, what a mess .. muddied water downstream during the remainder of winter. Is it someone’s pick up point downstream? Did anyone bother to check, or is it a winter creek?

    Some chainsaw-happy lunatic with nothing else to do, cutting down trees unnecessarily!

    That’s not the way to treat a Nature Reserve.

  20. Ann Wessing

    July 9, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Regardless of the intention, it’s pretty brutal work. Heather Chauncy might shed some light on it; she used to be on the management committee; not sure if she is now.

  21. Mjf

    July 9, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Have to disagree with Mooney’s summary of the old creek line.

    The undercut banks appear to be actively eroding and are not natural, given that the original forest has been cleared adjacent for grass. Refer to leaning trees into creek as evidence of active bank movement. There would be a pronounced absence of stabilisation despite recent plantings above and adjacent to undercut bank. Shallow rooted wattles provide very little bank reinforcement.

    Council (?) would have been better advised to implement some proper rock armouring to stabilise existing eroding banks at critical points.

    Dropping established trees in the immediate area is also counter productive.

    Digging a bypass channel will create new problems.

    How is water flow diverted from old creekbed into new channel ?

  22. Arthur Clarke

    July 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    What a shame … so unnecessary!

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