Tasmanian Times

Editor's Choice - Row 1

The Prosser Gulag …

Well, the Prosser dinosaurs went, left dissenting purists as me with a legacy of giant-sandbags, now browning with algae and really in such a short time are reminiscent of a Jurassic Park setting of dinosaur droppings.

And now they’re back, digging, dredging and replacing collapsed bags. Oh well, that’s progress. Recreational fishers come and go to and from the Prosser in a channel now running deep…end of story.

Well, end of one story at least…and the beginning of another. Outrage! Where families flocked last Summer to the new Prosser mouth playground, a fence has been erected by Glamorgan Spring Bay Council, not unlike a gulag where only birds can play, copulate and have babies and live in peace. Well as an avid bird photographer, I’ve got shots of the same cute little tackers, nesting and playing on nearby and faraway remote paradises as Spring Beach, Stapleton, and Rheban to the south and beaches all the way to Bolton’s to the North. And so why in such a popular-spot in the middle of a rapidly-growing region as Orford, where dogs and people are an expected part of that expansion.

Did not they who planned and executed the construction of the ‘outrageous’ fence do some much-needed research into the distribution of birds we would be led to believe are endangered and only resident at Orford?

It was erected post-election period, even during the private swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected; new mayor, new deputy -mayor and a few new councillor faces.

It’s a keep-out, stay-away no-dogs, no-people zone. Interestingly no one beyond the waterfront residents facing the new fence at this point know about the barrier. But the outrage is spreading and it won’t be long before those who played there last Summer, families, some with dogs, will realise that it’s all-over-Rover. It translates as offensive, if not stupid planning to protect birds from people in a popular and safe shallow tidal zone.

And at this point the feedback is, that nobody seems to know about the history of the gulag…not even the newly-elected executive. But the juxtaposition of my photos of yesterday and today tell the story. I don’t take hearsay as the premise for a journalistic piece, but am hearing lots of WTF’s and so in the public interest the Tasmanian Times is the perhaps the obvious repository of before and after piccies…and largely unattributed comment.

And so I can report that one messenger of such outrage is suggesting that nobody within the newly-elected hierarchy knew about the newly-erected gulag, masquerading as a bird-sanctuary at the mouth of the Prosser River, Orford.

Veteran campaigner for recreational fishing, and Orford resident Don Paton, has called on me twice in 24 hours to visit with camera, the contentious fence. He says he’s become the first port-of-call as word of the fence gets around and is interested in my pics of kids and families having fun earlier this year in the now no-go zone.

Cynically, from my observation post as an Orford resident of 30 years, the only species this new ‘bird-sanctuary’ will be free of are thylacines. Unless dogs are taught to read the scores of no-dogs signs and dog-owners are hotly pursued by ever-present police officers with drawn-pistols the declaration of this no-people zone is pure absurdity.

Here are the questions being raised that skip to my much earlier TT article of council hush-hush that seems to be a characteristic continuum for the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council. It will disagree, of course as it believes that a glossy, regular newsletter fulfills the role of public consultation. The recent announcement of the East Coast “Cambria” project, an enclave with Chinese investment support, announced in Bejing before in Australia, is one such a project shared between this council and the State government and well below the radar of East Coast ratepayers.

Is there a residual culture within this council that makes fundamental infrastructure decisions without council debate or adequate public consultation?

Does the nod come from the unelected administration, on such matters as industrial development in sensitive coastal precincts? Tassal’s occupation of Okehampton Bay is one that springs readily to mind?

Is there inherent development-policy that bespeaks State Government consent for such developments based on universal public apathy towards any controversial development beyond dumbed-down city-slickers?

Does external and internal lobbying on the jobs, jobs, jobs mantra eventually erode the policy-resolve of those who take to the hustings with the best of intentions in mind?

And so the little bird-gulag has provided opportunity for answers to so many questions related to public consultation. At what point should rate-payers and indeed all Tasmanian tax-payers and residents be consulted on all projects of public interest, from flimsy waterfront “keep-out” fences to mammoth-projects as Okehampton Bay’s Tassall invasion and the under-wraps Cambria Green project.

A heck of a test for newly-elected mayor Debbie Wisby, her deputy, Jenny Woods and new councillors to bring what Max, also known as ‘C’ from the latest James Bond movie says ‘out of the dark ages into the light’. Wisby has already alluded to a grass-roots perspective during her time at the helm. Wisby has already proven herself as standing against the flow, make that undercurrent on matters she considers in the deep public interest.

A good starting point as ‘leader’ of the new council would be the unannounced appearance of a light fence at the mouth of the Prosser that will keep kids and kin from doing what they do best on a hot Orford day. From hearsay feedback, councillors knew nothing of it. So who’s decision was it that the fence be erected?

Should appropriate public consultation be part of a grass-roots era, then I can see many flags flying in Wisby’s favour, should she, sensibly, tear down the gulag fence until questions are asked and all related fence-matters, put to the new council

Paton rightly sees it as her leadership litmus-test. Me too.

Paul Tapp From humble beginnings in a Fingal Valley mining town, Paul Tapp’s ambition to become a journalist was denied him before being conscripted into national service and serving as an infantry rifleman in South Vietnam in 1967. His photographs and captions to The Examiner Newspaper during his service were intercepted by the Defence Force and stamped as official PR until Paul produced negatives of ownership. And thus his career began. He was the only journalist to receive the State’s major award for broadcast and print journalism, eventually pursuing a career in Government press secretariats in the NT and in Tasmania. In retirement he investigated the police killing of Joe Gilewicz in 1991, where his work was taken to Parliament by Peg Putt MHA, eventuating in a Commission of Inquiry. Latterly his probing into the disappearance of Lucille Butterworth was the catalyst for a coronial inquest into that matter. Paul continues to ‘keep watch’ and contribute material to the Tasmanian Times.

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


  1. michael seabrook

    November 17, 2018 at 12:20 am

    and if worried about this global warming – go down to dover, southport or research bay

  2. Dr Eric Woehler, Convenor BirdLife Tasmania

    November 16, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    It’s a shame that the ‘investigative’ journalist didn’t engage in that investigating thing.Plenty of signs around the fenceline, brand new 2m+ wide sign that identifies birds on site, plenty of information on Council’s web page etc etc .. all conveniently overlooked in an effort to spruik the position of a few outspoken members of the public.

    Perhaps a phone call to PWS or even to BirdLife Tasmania would have allowed the ‘investigation’ to obtain freely-available information on the bird values present, namely the two species of formally-listed Threatened birds (under State and Federal legislations) nesting on site. Approaching BirdLife Tas or PWS would have provided a more balanced report on the values and threats.

    The Prosser River mouth is formally recognised internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA – see http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/orford-(tasmania)-iba-australia). IBAs are similar to Ramsar wetlands of International Significance, and identified by the application of standardised criteria globally using all available population data. The Prosser IBA was identified in 2009 by BirdLife Tasmania based on extensive surveys, counting and mapping data that extended from the mid-1940s (ie, 70+ years of observations).

    It was these same data that BirdLife Tasmania provided to the Federal Government based on our concerns re the proposed dredging/destruction of the backwater and channel modification by MAST. These data prompted the Federal Government to call in the proposal and deem it to be a Controlled Action under the EPBC.

    Ignorance of the facts, values and threats seems to have led the ‘investigation’ to dismiss the values and threats to the birds present. The international community recognises the area as being of international significance, and the GSB Council is to be congratulated for its efforts to conserve the area through the establishment of a sanctuary on site.

    Ignorance of the facts has led to the remarkable claim that the area is “ … masquerading as a bird sanctuary”. There is no masquerading, and there is no trickery. If the Federal and State Governments, the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council and PWS all engage with BirdLife Tasmania, and accept the 70+ years of data that have identified the international significance of the area, then perhaps the few outspoken critics of the sand bags and fence may wish to do so, too.

    The fences are there for a reason. People are still able to swim on the beach. It is the bags that have altered swimmers’ behaviours and options .. not the fence.

    Perhaps a greater effort at ‘investigating’ might have unearthed these facts, but perhaps there was no interest in establishing the facts and preparing a balanced article.

    Dr Eric Woehler, Convenor, BirdLife Tasmania

    • Concered Resident

      November 16, 2018 at 5:53 pm

      Eric, please explain how a stranded wire fence will keep the dogs away.

      Residents need some commitment from the Council to control Orford’s holiday dog problem, not a wire fence, seemingly to protect birds, that only impedes humans.

      Before the course of the river was changed, the birds did not have the backwater to play in. This was the course until it was blocked off. Fisherpeople could motor their boats out to sea and everyone was happy. But natural forces were eroding Raspins Beach, putting the road and the toilet block in danger. The course of the river was changed with the promise that if anything adverse happened, it would be addressed. It wasn’t.

      Where were you at that time, Eric?

      • Dr Eric Woehler

        November 17, 2018 at 12:18 pm

        I don’t reply to anonymous misinformed posts where writers hide behind pseudonyms.

        • Concerned resident

          November 18, 2018 at 10:36 am

          Eric, there’s nothing misinformed about my statements. I am happy to send documentation supporting what I’ve written.

    • Paul Tapp

      November 19, 2018 at 4:46 am

      Hmmm. ‘Dr’ Eric, all you’ve done with such an unbecoming, offensive response is to awaken a sleeping giant.

      PWS has ignored the long-term impact of the filth from fish faeces so close to a national park that it is suggestive of that agency being told NOT to enter debate. How do I know? I’ve worked at close quarters with so-called ‘leaders’ who have total reliance on unelected specialists in media manipulation before jumping in front of a TV crew.

      Once upon a time an ‘investigative reporter’ would solicit scientific expertise on the need for a full EIS on the marine environment, including bird-habitats, of a million caged-fish in nearby Okehampton Bay. No such Environmental Impact Study was done. No scientific ‘outrage’ at the absence of an EIS was sought. No parliamentary objection to it was uttered by either major party. Your rationale for the defence of the fence is suggestive of secret lobbying that usurps the role of elected councillors. Are you prepared to publicly detail your interaction at all levels with GSBC that saw this fence erected on the cusp of a new council being formed? Forget not, that the creed of journalism is the public’s Right To Know .. and as a ratepayer for 30 years here it is my right to know to whom you have been secretly lobbying so successfully that over-night a wire-fence is erected by council WITHOUT the knowledge of elected councillors.

      I walked the area and photographed one occupied nest from a distance with a 60x zoom so not to disturb. I also photographed, less than 200 metres away, about 4 active hunting-type dogs off leads and running the beaches. No 2-4 laterally-stranded picket-fence would keep them away from the ‘nester’ should they decide, as dog-packs are wont to, to go on a hunting expedition in the general area. Also, please explain why nesting birds don’t simply relocate to nearby Rheban or Bolton’s Beach where there is much less human and dog intrusion.

      The Prosser bird sanctuary to me is symptomatic of an absence of astute public consultation and a presence of incompetence or surreptitious usurpation within the GSBC. Wherever I go, I hear the rumblings .. hard for a ‘retired’ investigative journalist to resist taking up the pen .. in the interests of ‘democracy’ of course – a word too often removed from academic lexicon.

    • Richard Davoren

      November 22, 2018 at 4:56 am

      Eric … re your comment “concerns re the proposed dredging/destruction of the backwater and channel modification by MAST. These data prompted the Federal Government to call in the proposal and deem it to be a Controlled Action under the EPBC.”

      I attended the first meeting back in 2002, where it was proposed to change the course of the river.
      There was no backwater then, no bird sanctuary, but there were bird species nesting in the dunes oblivious of what was about to happen.

      People had access to the area around the mouth of the Prosser, and presumably the birds were happy. That action to change the course of the river created the backwater and deposited sand on the area, assisting the birdlife and making life difficult for those wishing to enjoy boating and swimming.That initial proposal was rejected by those at the meeting but it was pushed through by the Government.

      Now people are excluded from this downgraded area. Dogs still roam there, but people can’t.

      It is a disgrace the way we have been treated. Humans and birds have co-existed there for centuries. Why not now?

      Eric I enjoy seeing the birdlife and wish to see it preserved. If you look at your files you will see that I had written to you on several occasions about the lack of Council control of stray dogs affecting the bird nests.

      Keeping people out and letting dogs in is not the answer.

    • Concerned Resident

      November 27, 2018 at 11:11 am

      Eric, your penultimate para: “The fences are there for a reason. People are still able to swim on the beach. It is the bags that have altered swimmers’ behaviours and options .. not the fence.”

      What rubbish.

      If you had been across the history of the area since 2000, you would know that the changing of the course of the river, against the wishes of those affected, caused all that followed to come about. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were, and are still, being spent to remedy that mistake.

      An extract from the 2001 DA.

      The Crown – Millingtons Beach Conservation Area, Orford – Relocation of
      the Mouth of the Prosser River (miscellaneous) Conditions.

      “1 The Department of Primary Industries Water and Environment is to monitor the Development and reverse any changes as a result of relocating the river channel and the Agency will need to have the resources and strategies in place to reverse the development if unforeseen circumstances occur … “

      Another issue. Have the proponents of the fence, that lets dogs in and keeps humans out, considered that dog owners are unable to chase and capture their pets if they escape and tear up the nests? Or more seriously, what would happen if a toddler crawled under the fence, headed for the water, and the mother found herself fenced in?

  3. Paul Tapp

    November 14, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Interesting responses.

    This will probably come to a head as the weather warms up and families flock to the fabulous Prosser mouth only to find that they are blocked by dreadful gulag wire.

    Let’s hope the newly-elected broom in council asks some hard questions of its administrators, perhaps make some executive changes, and gets the wire-cutters out.

    Cliff H … Orford and Triabunna have always been a demographically divided community. Even more so since one former mayor referred to one group as Bogans, and another former mayor referred to another as Shackies. Divisions have increased. So sad.

    Orford residents, generally speaking, have always been opposed to the wood-chip mill .. and now fish-farms. I have a piece coming up next on TT on the long-term outlook for this beautiful region .. and the perils of thoughtless industrialisation.

  4. John Wiseman

    November 13, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Richard, there are good dog owners and then there are those people who think they are animal lovers, passionate about their dog or their cat, but who only think about their own own pet.

    Surfing down South Arm in the seventies to early eighties there were a lot of shore birds, like Terns and Oyster Catchers. Then year after year surfers and other locals would bring their dogs to the beach and let them rip around the dunes, and now there are no shore birds except seagulls.

    I have phoned National Parks and told them just wait for a big SW swell and offshore winds, and Wedge will have an unleashed dog show. There has never been a protector of bird life. Dogs rule the beach, and the parks and the cats rule everybody’s backyard. So Orford will be no different.

    • Richard Davoren

      November 14, 2018 at 10:42 am

      Yes, John, the birds should not be wiped out through people allowing their “pets” to run amok. But how would you feel if one day you went to surf on your favourite beach and found it fenced to prevent you from accessing it?

      In Orford, dogs have been allowed to run amok, and this will obviously continue as the fence will not impede them.

      Responsible users of the beach have been restricted. Irresponsible people will still allow their uncontrolled dogs into the area, and those dogs will roam and can easily navigate the wires, destroying nests while their owners are unable to reach them and stop them.

      • Peter Bright

        November 14, 2018 at 12:03 pm

        Richard, dog ownership instantly turns their owners’ minds to soppy mulch riddled throughout with pure selfishness. Narcissism unleashed!

        Dog owners do not recognise the legislation’s laws for control, and neither do the so-called enforcement authorities such as councils and the police. Neither do the governments who made the laws for control because they know that if they enforced them they’d be quickly voted into oblivion.

        With such universal lawlessness there is only one potential solution, and your signature on this e-Petition would be welcome: https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/no-dogs-anywhere.html

  5. Richard Davoren

    November 12, 2018 at 10:03 am

    I have regularly watched dozens of uncontrolled dogs running rampant around the declared no-go zones. They also run into my property and defecate on my lawn.

    I have seen people attacked, myself included, but GSBC does not want to know. Calls to the dog control officer went ignored. I am now told that there is no one with the responsibility to deal with this issue since the previous incumbent resigned.

    So if the dogs can’t be controlled by simply erecting signs, then GSBC apparently decided to control the citizens who live nearby, or control visitors who enjoy the beach at Orford. The fence is not capable of keeping dogs out, so the fence does not solve the assumed dog problem.

    Yes, the dogs need to be controlled .. but not by excluding responsible citizens and their families from the beach.

    Such arrogance, with no discussion, no evidence of an approval by our elected representatives for the undertaking of this outrage. Adding insult to injury, my rates are paying for this abomination!

    • Peter Bright

      November 12, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Richard, it is standard practice for councils everywhere to ignore the laws for dog control.

      They have learned the hard way that when they lose cases in the courts the court imposes financial penalties upon them for losing, even on technicalities. Council staff are not trained in law and the defendent’s lawyer can easily rubbish them. Courtroom injustices are common.

      So councils quickly learn that if they discharge their control duties, one of which is to keep order in their respective areas, the costs of that enforcement in time and money makes them losers.

      What to do? They usually find refuge in problem denial. They will go through their preferred charade of pretending to investigate a formal Complaint, and then eventually write to the Complainant (weeks or months later) saying that upon investigation, no offences were found.

      Council managers lie. They see their prime task as keeping rates down, yet the legislation authorises them to raise whatever moneys are needed to keep order in their area. Besides that, they have dogs themselves, and their dogs are good dogs who hardly ever attack people.

      Dog owners lie, even under oath in court. They have no problem with lying. What is the magistrate to believe? He gives the offender the benefit of the doubt, and the offender controls his smirking until he leaves the courtroom whereafter things go back to what they were.

      The whole situation is an abomination. Even the RSPCA has no interest in a dog’s anguish at being imprisoned all day, nearly every day, in its boring backyard with nothing to do and no company. ‘Isolation syndrome’ is the most common cause of neighbourhood barking because the dog is an intensely social creature for whom incarceration is torture.

      You may glean further information about barking on my website: http://quietas.net/Page69.html with further information about Noise and Barking here: http://www.pebri.net

  6. Cliff Hemple

    November 12, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Ha, ha! So the Orford – Triabunna community that was so keen on chipping our forests in the 1980s is now all upset about the environment when it happens in their backyard.

    Sucked in; karma has rewarded you!

    • Richard Kopf

      November 30, 2018 at 8:34 am

      You say we are getting karma. What? For closing the wood-chip mill forever?

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