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[Paradise Lost]Government rezoning paves way to a paradise lost

  THIN EDGE: Moving the goalposts to allow developments like Lake Malbena paves the way for a waning wilderness. THIN EDGE: Moving the goalposts to allow developments like Lake Malbena paves the way for a waning wilderness.

  It is absurd to allow helicopters frequent access to our national parks.

  The only exception should be the Westpac rescue unit.

  I can’t believe the state government wants to allow commercial access well within our national parks, like the proposal for Lake Malbena in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

  The lake is in the Central Highlands, north east of Lake St Clair. It is a wilderness area but the state government has nudged the goal posts by rezoning selected wilderness and World Heritage Areas into categories, such as Self-Reliant Recreation Zones.

  In other words, goodbye paradise, hello theme park.

  I must confess to being asleep over this proposal, for accommodation huts on small Halls Island in Lake Malbena and accessible by helicopter.

  Whenever I heard the lake mentioned previously it was ho-hum, bloody greenies again. Bloody Bob Brown Foundation.

  I can thank the state government for the wakeup call. The road closure near Orford forced occasional East Coast dwellers like me to creep along the Wielangta Road.

  So, you’re doing 40km/h along a muddy, slippery dirt road because the outside edge drops away for hundreds of metres in parts, and at a snail pace you finally notice, the trees. Beautiful giants, towering over you like benevolent guardians.

  I won’t get mushy. My cynical experience of conservation was forged in a seminal moment during the Franklin Dam blockade in 1982 when on the old Crotty Road, I watched a star-struck, japara-clad female protester serenade Bob Brown with her guitar, singing a dedicated ode of total worship. It was creepy.

  So, I don’t hug trees but I am bloody angry with the thought of Lake Malbena converted into a scene from Apocalypse Now.

  How on earth do they reconcile the pursuit of the golden egg with the slaughter of the goose?

  According to an Auditor General’s Report last year there are 222 tourism operators working within our national parks in such pursuits as Franklin River rafting, Maria Island Cruises, scenic flights to the South West, sea kayaking, Cradle Mountain walks and more formal activity such as Freycinet Lodge.

  None of them offend me. Maybe some should. I can’t get my head around why the government would unleash choppers in a national park so special as the Walls of Jerusalem.

  The environmental lobby suggests 240 to 250 flights a year to Lake Malbena. The proponents suggest no more than 30. One is too many.

  The Libs unveiled their policy in 2014, calling it “Unlocking the potential of our (national) parks.”

  It was intended to foster “sensible, low impact eco-tourism…which will broaden the range of exciting and unique experiences on offer in our beautiful parks.”

  In 2018 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee expressed concern about some Tasmanian wilderness areas being rezoned from wilderness to “Remote Recreation.”

  This was the body that helped to seal the fate of the Gordon below Franklin Dam in 1983. You don’t mess with them.

  After conservationists scored a win in the Federal Court over Lake Malbena, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has called for more scrutiny of the proposal.

  Conservationists are experts at running a proposal ragged through the courts, so that proponents either give up, or the wider community becomes curious.

  It’s a bit like the tactics of the North Vietnamese in the 1960s Vietnam War. You don’t have to win; you just have to wait for public opinion to win the war for you.

  I guess I’m another one of those sleepy heads, finally focusing on a pristine wilderness being shattered by the monotonous thump of rotor blades.

  Just imagine. You could hear it for miles. Even if there are only 30 trips planned, how many more choppers will feature in these recreation zones?

  In my ignorance I once doubted that we could produce anything as majestic as the South Island of New Zealand, until a pilot took me on a low-flying adventure through the gorges, mountains and ravines of Tasmania’s West Coast.

  Some years later, while flying back from the West Coast, former premier the late Jim Bacon beckoned a couple of journos flying with him to look out the window and tell him what we saw. After I hesitated a moment, he said: “F—ng trees, millions of the bastards. Don’t let anyone tell you the trees are an endangered species.”

  Yes, but wilderness is a degradable asset. There must be plenty of other potential tourism drawcards that would sit well with a noisy access factor.

  There may well be a compromise with Lake Malbena, but even then, I’m more concerned with the changing of the goal posts and how this questionable action may have opened the flood gates for more and more eco-tourism inside our national parks.

  When it comes to something as sensitive as wilderness in this tiny state, the last player I’m going to trust is the government, Liberal or Labor.

  Barry Prismall is a former The Examiner deputy editor and Liberal adviser