Cry the beloved Tassie

When I was small I used to love Chocolate Swiss Roll. Sometimes mum would buy one as a treat and I’d wolf down a slice as soon as she’d unpacked her shopping bag.  Within minutes I’d be whining, “Mum can I have another slice please?  Can I please?  Can I?”

She’d give me the look and say “Of course you can sweetie.”  And then she’d hit me with the killer blow, the one that always left me reeling on the ropes, gasping for breath.  Darkly she’d say “But when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

How I hated those cold hard words, loathed their relentless logic, resented the impossibility of the choice they placed in front of me. Although of course, strictly speaking, mum was wrong.  She could easily have nipped round the corner to buy another one, no worries.  After all, the Co-Op never ran out of Chocolate Swiss Rolls.

Primary forests aren’t like Chocolate Swiss Rolls. When they’re gone, they’re gone.  You can’t ever put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  Ever.

Tassie is doing some good stuff for conservation. Lots of land is set aside for National Parks and other reserves.  And look at the project save the Tasmanian Devil – real commitment there, no question.

However if you scratch beneath the surface, peel away the self-satisfied veneer, there are less palatable truths. We learned earlier in the trip of the excellent work being done on Bruny Island to protect the endangered Swift Parrot.  But we were told yesterday that that the virgin forest to which the Swift Parrots return each winter is scheduled for logging.  So the parrots are protected in the summer but condemned to starve in the winter.  Where the hell is the sense in that?

Vast areas of Tasmanian primary forest remain under threat from the chainsaw. Of course Tasmania needs to have some commercial forestry, some plantations of fast growing trees to meet essential timber requirements.  But to set about destroying these magnificent old growth forests that have been around for thousands upon thousands of years so Tasmania can export bloody wood chips to the Chinese?  Come on guys, get a grip.

We’ve had a wonderful time is Tassie, seen some fantastic sights, met some great people. It’s one of the most special places we’ve ever been … and we’ve been to some very special places.

And yet here’s one of my abiding memories of Tassie …


… and here’s another:


Guys, it doesn’t have to be like this. Your primary forests are something to take pride in.  Your descendants won’t ever forgive you for what you’re doing to them.

You need to pay heed to what my dear old mum used to say.

Remember guys, when it’s gone, it’s gone.

[29 November]

Walking among giants

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.

[13 November]