We take a side-trip from Geeveston to the Tahune Airwalk. This is a metallic walkway suspended tens of metres above ground, giving aerial views of a fragment of old-growth (primary) forest. There is also a spectacular cantilever section of walkway …
… and two swing bridges (similar to a rope bridge, but fashioned from steel) stretching across rivers that bisect the forest:
The engineering is impressive, as are the big trees:
But I’m left slightly uneasy. This attraction is run by the state-owned Forestry Tasmania. To get to it we have to drive through many miles of second-growth forest, labelled with cheerful roadside messages along the lines of “regenerated after clear-cutting in 1986” or “re-growth following felling in 1974.” And, when you walk amongst the trees at ground level great effort is made to inform you how useful various timbers are for making furniture or fences or whatever.
Most galling of all, at the entrance to the attraction is a huge sign imploring visitors to “Walk Among the Giants of the Forest,” which sounds a tad hypocritical given that Forestry Tasmania has chopped down pretty much all of the big majestic trees, other than in the immediate vicinity of the Airwalk, for many miles around in every direction.
A cynic might almost suspect there is an agenda here. Is Forestry Tasmania’s primary aim to promote to the visitor the message that logging is good for you?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that logging is a complex as well as an emotive issue: Andrew from Inala talked at length about the political, economic and scientific aspects of Tasmanian logging. Moreover as a guest in Australia I know it’s not my issue anyway and I should really just butt out and let the locals sort it out for themselves.
However it would be great if Forestry Tasmania could use take this opportunity to explain the positive aspects of how they are adapting the management of forestry to minimise the environmental damage their operation is causing, and to give some reassurances that they understand the concerns of environmentalists. I genuinely want to believe the forestry in Tasmania is being managed sensitively for people (whether they be loggers or conservationists) as well as for the environment, but I need the facts
The failure, as far as I could see during our brief visit, to argue the case or put a positive spin on their activities worries me. We enjoyed our afternoon at the Tahune Airwalk, but I am left with the feeling that this was an opportunity lost by the people who run it.