Tasmanian Times

Adventure and Wilderness

Libs’ plan for helipad at Lake Malbena will affect JOBS …

Pic: Richard Webb

Hardly anyone disputes that wilderness has value. But people disagree as to what constitutes wilderness, and they disagree on how to measure its value.

The world has many bushwalkers, climbers, and fishers who come to Tasmania precisely because of our wilderness. Their value of the experience is greater than the cost of getting out there and enjoying the wild open spaces. In the process, they create jobs.

Then there are those who simply appreciate that wilderness exists. How large is this group? It’s hard to know, but sales of wilderness calendars and worldwide audiences for wildlife documentaries suggests that it is very large indeed.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those for whom the value of wilderness doesn’t extend beyond job creation. For them, a wilderness experience doesn’t involve muddy walking boots. A photo opportunity, alongside a development advocate in a high-vis jacket, is sufficient.

At present there is a number of development applications in the World Heritage Area under consideration.

It’s hard to know what, if any, cost-benefit calculation is involved in these proposals. The proponents, and the present government, hide behind spurious ‘commercial-in-confidence’ arguments.

This is unacceptable, when it is taxpayer’s assets that are apparently being given away for free.

When it suits, of course, job numbers get thrown around with wild abandon. My personal favourite was Minister Green’s ludicrous claim in 2005, during the pulp mill debacle, that the forestry and forest products industry contributed 23 per cent of Gross State Product.

Which brings us to the Lake Malbena proposal.

As usual, commercial details have not been made public. But some details have appeared in the press.

If these details are correct, the proponents can hardly be accused of exaggerating the number of full-time jobs created by the development – it is three.
Put that number in the benefit column of a cost-benefit analysis.

Now turn to the cost column, where helicopter noise and commercialisation of the wilderness come into play.

Leave aside the effect on the environmentalists all over the world for whom wilderness has value for its own sake. Hard, but not impossible, to measure that.

Let’s just count the adverse effect on the hundreds of fishers and bushwalkers who took the trouble to write submissions opposing the proposal.

They don’t want wilderness to be redefined so as to include up to 120 helicopter flights a year over the Western Lakes.

Some will decide to make their fishing holiday elsewhere, not in Tasmania. Full time jobs will be lost. How many? Hard to say.

But it is not difficult to believe that even on the narrowest of cost-benefit analyses, based on job numbers, the proposal doesn’t stack up. It doesn’t provide a net benefit to the Tasmanian economy.

It’s time to think again.

Associate Professor Graeme Wells (UTAS) was formerly at the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics at UTAS.

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  1. Claire Gilmour

    November 28, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    I just don’t know how they can legally sell the concept to tourists of wild trout fishing in wilderness in Tasmania. They are going to be conning punters out of thousands of dollars based on a lie.

    What is it with these trout fishermen? The hunt? So you cast a long line, and if, like me, you catch one in your first go .. easy! What do you do then? Oh, that’s right, you line your catch up so be a tosser in competition. Then you drink lots of red wine, post photos on whatever is your fav social media thing and go home saying you’ve been in the wilderness catching a fish .. which is introduced and mostly you can catch by hand! Fair dinkum! Does that make you a wilderness man?

    I’ve walked/backpacked into a number of lakes in the central highlands world heritage area. Absolutely fantastic, and you couldn’t appreciate it more unless you walk in and take in .. and take out everything you bring/use. BUT there are very few lakes or rivers that do not have the ‘introduced’ trout in them! That’s not wild!

    There is also scat after scat of wild dogs, and that’s not wild! Trout fishing is NOT a real Tasmanian wilderness exercise! So to sell the idea of real wilderness to the trout fisherman world in Tasmania is based on a lie ! If you want to experience real wild/wilderness waterways in Tasmania then you go to those areas where there are Giant Freshwater Crayfish .. and NO trout !

    Real men don’t catch trout in Tasmania. Really, you’re just being used as a feral introduced species eradicator .. and just being charged mega bucks. How many extra introduced trout fry are being added to world heritage lakes/rivers?

  2. David Young

    November 23, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Bravo, Graeme.

    The estimate of ‘three’ for the number of full-time jobs that the Malbena proposal promises to create isn’t just a guess in the press. It’s there in section 1.11 of the proponent’s Reserve Activity Assessment (RAA) application under ‘economic benefits’: ‘up to three full-time-eqivalent (FTE) employees’.

    Note the ‘up to’! Greg French (who should know) estimates that only two jobs will be created, and they won’t be year-round jobs.

    This disastrous proposal will achieve nothing but a good income for the proponents. It will destroy a sense of wilderness, pave the way for other (possibly worse) proposals, and create nothing for Tasmania but deep division.

  3. Wayne Goodwin

    November 23, 2018 at 6:27 am

    The ‘jobs and growth’ mantra is yet again shown to be the hollow ideology behind the failed neoliberal, vindictive agenda of wilderness destruction.

  4. Geoff Holloway

    November 20, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Excellent analysis, Associate Professor Graeme Wells!

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