Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps



Lake Malbena appeal filed in the Supreme Court of Tasmania

There has been a long running attempt to develop a tourism venturein a remote World Heritage Area on Tasmania’s Central Plateau. This would set a worrying precedent for future commercial development in World Heritage and National Parks.

In December 2019, the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT) overturned the Central Highlands Council’s decision to refuse a permit for helicopter-accessed visitor accommodation at Halls Island, Lake Malbena, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. But environmental groups have not given up on this issue.

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Big fire day across the mountains

[WED Jan 1UPDATE: I am away with the CFA at present and not in a position to update this page until further notice so please don’t rely on it for updates – please check the relevant government agency websites which you will find if you scroll down. Thanks]

There are some links on how to support recovery and emergency efforts available here.

And I’m still doing some updates on the Mountain Journal facebook page, mostly around park and road closures.

[Monday December 30 2019]

Here we go. We have a long, hot, scary day ahead of us, with extreme fire risk across all mountain areas.

In Victoria, authorities are calling on all people in East Gippsland (east of Bairnsdale) to leave the area, in case the Princes Highway needs to be closed. Mountain communities like Goongerah are at imminent risk of being hit by fires. The W Tree Yalmy fire is still not yet under control, nor is the Ensay Ferntree fire. Firefighters and aircraft are responding to four new fires north-west of Gelantipy which were started by dry lightning earlier his morning.

In NSW there has already been at least one small fire started by dry lightning in the Snowy Mountains (it is under control).

In Tasmania, today is a Day of Total Fire Ban, but authorities warn that tomorrow could be even worse, and that people in bushland areas should consider leaving for urban areas.

Continue reading “Big fire day across the mountains”

Wildfires in remote Tasmania

It’s been an absolutely brutal fire season around the country, and we are not even into full summer yet. Among the horror list of lost lives, homes and other infrastructure, millions of animals killed, damage to water catchments and farmland, there has also been devastating impacts on wild places.

Rainforest that ‘is not meant to burn’ has been on fire in northern NSW and QLD, the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains have been hammered, the Budawang Ranges in NSW have been badly burnt, and there are enormous and ‘not yet under control’ fires in the mountain foothills of East Gippsland.

While there were devastating fires in Tasmania last summer, so far, the mountains in that state have been spared fires. Perhaps the situation is now changing, with four fires in remote areas recently started through lightning strike. 

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The steepest couloir in Australia?

If you’ve ever walked or climbed in Tasmania, you’re probably aware of the eastern face of Mt Geryon in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. It has climbs of more than 350 metres in length and is a truly inspiring mountain environment. There are a series of couloirs that break the cliffs to the north of Geryon, along the spine of the Ducane Range.

Ben Armstrong recently skied the most impressive of these lines.

Continue reading “The steepest couloir in Australia?”

Approval of Lake Malbena ‘helicopter tourism’ project overturned in the Federal Court

The Wilderness Society (TWS) and Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) have had a win in the ongoing battle over the development of a tourism venture at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central Plateau. The Federal Court has set aside the decision by the federal environment minister Melissa Price that the Wild Drake heli-fishing camp in the World Heritage listed Walls of Jerusalem national park is not a ‘controlled action’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. (A controlled action can avoid full environmental assessment).

The federal government’s controversial decision in August 2018 to allow helicopter flights and huts on Lake Malbena had been challenged in the Federal Court. Earlier this year, TWS sought a judicial review of the Federal Environment Minister’s decision that the Halls Island, Lake Malbena development is “not a controlled action” under the [federal] Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

This is a great outcome.

This decision does not stop the proposal.  It means that the Parks and Wildlife Service cannot grant proper approval of the proposal.  It will now be sent back for proper approvals process under the EPBC Act. Wilderness Society spokesman Tom Allen says the decision had effectively put a stop to the plans that included huts, a communal building, walkways and helicopter flights.

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‘Have You Considered Relocating Because of Climate Change?’

A decade ago, I moved from Melbourne to Castlemaine in Central Victoria. Box and Ironbark, Peppermint and Yellow Gum country. Hilly sandstone country. The land of the Jaara people. It took me a while, but I fell in love with the place, and now its home.

But even at the start, I remember thinking ‘this is a crazy place to live in a time of climate change’. Already hot and dry in summer, its going to get hotter and drier in coming years and experience worse water stress. It’s the same story all over. Climate change is already happening, and bringing impacts everywhere. Along the inland rivers, towns are running out of water. Along the coast, at places like Inverloch, storm surge is stripping away coastlines. In Mildura, the town had 65 days last summer that were above the heatwave threshold. Parts of Australia are expected to become uninsurable because of more regular flooding. And in the mountains, our winters are already becoming more erratic. It goes on and on. Nowhere is immune.

We are all familiar with the plight of climate refugees – people whose environment or economy is so impacted by the effects of climate change that they have no choice but to move. Mostly these are seen as people in the global South – the ‘developing’ world (although Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of the USA’s South and displaced millions, shows that this is also a reality even in the rich world).

Something that I have noticed in recent years is a growing number of people who have opted to move from choice, not necessity, who are seeking a friendlier climate. I have lost count of the people I know or have met who have bought land in Tasmania, especially in the south west or north east. Some of them don’t live there: they have bought land as a safety net in case it goes to shit on the mainland. I know people from north east Victoria, in towns like Wangaratta, who have moved to the cooler and wetter hills of South Gippsland. There are people who have swapped the dry inland slopes of Central VIC for the lusher coasts of the Otways. And I know people who have left the hill country of Gippsland and Central Highlands, tired from the relentless stress of ever worsening fire seasons.

Continue reading “‘Have You Considered Relocating Because of Climate Change?’”

Tasmanian Wilderness Guides step up to protect wild places

It is always heartening to see outdoor groups and businesses getting active to protect the places they love and rely on. From the many groups who campaign for the creation of new parks in order to protect wild places, to the efforts of Protect Our Winters, who are mobilising the winter sports community, there are many great groups and initiatives out there.

With ongoing attempts by the Tasmanian government to open up national parks and World Heritage areas to further commercial tourist operations, it has been great to see the organised campaigning by the group that represents outdoor guides in that state.

Continue reading “Tasmanian Wilderness Guides step up to protect wild places”

TAS planning tribunal approves helicopter tourism on the Central Plateau

In February this year, the Central Highlands Council in Tasmania rejected the Lake Malbena tourism development.

The controversial ‘helicopter tourism’ development planned for Halls Island in Lake Malbena on Tasmania’s central plateau had previously been approved by state and federal governments. The local Council was the last government authority which needed to sign off on the project. It rejected it and it had been hoped that the decision by Council would be the end of the proposal.

However, the developer lodged an appeal against this decision. And now the state’s planning tribunal has overturned Central Highlands Councils attempt to have it blocked.

Continue reading “TAS planning tribunal approves helicopter tourism on the Central Plateau”

Investigation into commercial development in Tasmanian parks

There has been a limited number of private commercial tourism operations developed in wild places in Tasmania’s reserve system. There has also been a long campaign by some in the Tasmanian government and business to open up more of the state’s World Heritage and other protected areas to commercial development.

In 2018, plans were revealed to build a fly-in, fly-out luxury camp at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) on the Central Plateau. It is a remote location, to the south east of the famed Walls of Jerusalem area. The plan includes a helipad, accommodation, kitchen and toilet facilities.

More recently, the Tasmanian government promised $20 million to develop Tasmania’s “Next Iconic Walk”, which was intended to be another hut-based multi-day ‘Three Capes Track’-style development. After a public call for ideas last year, some 20 odd submissions were apparently received, but the full list has never been made public. Then, after another internal process without public scrutiny or clearly detailed selection criteria, the chosen option was announced on 26 July. Based on a proposal from the West Coast Tourism Association, it focuses on the Tyndall Range in the west of the state. The process by which prospective developments are assessed has been questioned over its transparency.

All these plans have been controversial and generated substantial opposition. Now they have attracted the attention of the auditor-general who has announced an investigation into the Expression of Interest (EOI) process for these developments.

Continue reading “Investigation into commercial development in Tasmanian parks”

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