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save the Blue Tier

north east highlands track

Comments on Forestry Tasmania's
Northeast Walking Trail Feasibility Survey

It was as part of the National Park submission that the concept of a multi day walk through the area was first mooted - bringing economic benefits to the community and protecting the natural environment surrounding the proposed track. Upgrading of picnic areas, wheelchair access walks, short walks and a multi-day track that can be walked in sections, or as a 7-day walk, would bring economic benefits to the community - supporting local businesses: eg: cheese factory, local pubs and shops as well as tourist accommodation and tour operators and would provide work for guides, transport operators and catering/food outlets. Bushwalking promotes health and fitness, also providing an educational opportunity for walkers due to the diversity of the forest types and plants seen on the walk. Native wildlife habitat is highlighted with rotting logs and old growth trees with hollows abundant - allowing walkers to gain a knowledge and understanding of the importance to protect habitat. Also emphasised is the need to protect the headwaters and catchments of our rivers and streams. These fragile watercourses need the full protection of intact ground cover, understorey and canopy to maintain and regulate flow and temperature so that the minute aquatic life that keeps water clean can thrive.

The benefits of a multi-day walking track through Tasmania's Northeast Highlands are many ... the track links numerous existing walks and can be walked as a series of day walks opening the way for a vehicle assisted multi day walk or a wilderness experience for the self sufficient! The track offers walkers a fantastic array of forest types, visits stunning waterfalls, crosses pristine streams, contains many interesting relics from the past mining era, offers sensational views, unusual rock formations and petroglyphs, towering tree ferns, Gondwana forests, glacial refugia, mosses, lichens etc. and is habitat for a great many species of native wildlife.
The proposed track was first walked by a group of local women in January 2001 - having mapped and planned the walk for years it was exciting to find that it was not just possible, but had great potential. Countless hours have since been spent re-walking sections, mapping and writing track notes.

In 2002 OUTDOOR Australia magazine Editor and Photographer walked the trail - the cover-story article claimed, 'the trail reveals wonders right to the end, offering remarkable variety and a different experience from other Tasmanian trails I have walked. It surpassed all expectations and has the potential to be a truly world-class multi-day walk'. (Carl Roe - Outdoor Magazine Club Editor)

In January 2003 Forestry Tasmania announced plans to investigate the feasibility of the walk. Bass District Forestry Manager Steve Manson claimed (Examiner Jan 24th 2003) 'we're trying to fit the walking track into existing reserves as well as considering our harvesting plans for the rest of the State Forest'.

Region North (now Northern Regional Development) assumed a lead role in coordinating the involvement of interested parties and a series of meetings were held in February 2004. Again Forestry Tasmania's Steve Manson claimed, 'Compromises re both the trail alignment and harvesting would be required'.

In October 2005 the report and feasibility study were released. The Northeast Walking Trail Field Survey was compiled by Peter Ashton for Forestry Tasmania.

Using local draft track notes the area was surveyed by Peter Ashton - for every daily section of the track the report states: 'budgetary constraints meant that I had insufficient time to survey this area'. With no disrespect to Peter Ashton this would have to be considered an incomplete survey. Despite this, Peter Ashton's report states a very real potential exists for a multi-day track from Mt. Victoria to the Blue Tier.

Jo Field, Community Liaison Officer with Forestry Tasmania, prepared the Report on the Northeast Walking Trail Feasibility Survey. The report found the walk 'unviable', failing to acknowledge that the Consultant did indeed support Option 2 of his survey: to go with the through trail idea, but not out to the coast.
It was unanimously agreed at the October meeting in Scottsdale that the proposed section between Blue Tier and Bay of Fires be abandoned due to extensive forestry operations in the area and concerns raised by Parks and Wildlife - allowing the walk to descend into the stunning Groom River Valley - ending at Halls Falls.

The Trail Survey reveals no evidence at all that Forestry have compromised or reconsidered their harvesting plans. Over the past ten years almost the entire Mutual Valley/Weld Hill area has been clearfelled and converted to plantation. Forests surrounding the Frome Reserve have also been heavily targeted, as are the Blue Tier foothills.

In Summary, the Report on the North East Walking Trail Feasibility Survey states:

The consultant's GPS and flagged routes do not hold enough scenic values and interest to sustain a multi-day walk or individual day-walks, with exception to the Blue Tier where a series of walks have already been developed that include natural and cultural heritage and scenic values.

Having now walked the track in its entirety on three separate occasions I find this highly disputable - not only did the Outdoor Magazine crew find that the walk surpassed all expectations, a group of experienced and young walkers recently completed the 7-day track and were overwhelmed by its diversity, breathtaking beauty and accessibility.

History Room Volunteers and Friends of the Blue Tier have for many years, maintained the walks on the Blue Tier.

The report also finds that for many sections of the walk there is little to no scenic value. Accompanying photos will help people decide for themselves - I don't believe that the report conveys the common view.

With 20 short walks on offer the area is regularly visited by walking clubs, locals, visitors and tour operators. Horse and mountain bike riders continue to use many of the old tracks as well.

The northeast is unique in that it offers something for everyone. The walks begin with a 15 minute disabled access forest walk, walks under 1 hour, 2 - 4 hour walks, half and full day walks/rides.

Early in 2005 the fantastic but unauthorised walking tracks to the Blue Tier Giant (fattest tree in Tassie), Crystal Hill and the Groom River Trail were closed by Forestry Tasmania. The Anchor Stamper track has also been closed for repairs for over a year.

L. Nicklason

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