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Wilderness Conservation - A Thousand Cuts

Franklin/Gordon Wild Rivers NP Tasmania

Log entry 1....June 2022

We have worked diligently for a considerable amount of time earning the credential to guide adventures South of Queenstown and on into Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). Whenever we are fortunate enough to be here we feel a significance of place, a heightened awareness of pristine temperate wilderness conservation, an appreciation of Outstanding Universal Value.

There is palpable spiritual presence here provoking a feeling of privilege just to be present. When we arrive between the three peaks above the River we unreservedly voice our acknowledgement and respect for the original people of this place.

We have little knowledge of the first human presence here but even the little we do know is enough to warrant protection of this place at the highest level. Physical evidence dating back many thousands of years at nearby Kuti Kina confirms the Aboriginals integrity with environment. There is no doubt of long ancestry here.

Excerpt from Australia and New Zealand school of Government Case study

In 1963 the HEC lobbied the Tasmanian government to approach the Commonwealth for a £2.5 million grant to fund the construction of a road into the wilderness of Lake Pedder National Park. At the time, neither the HEC nor the Government made any public statements regarding a hydro project in the National Park. However, once the road was built, the HEC used it to complete investigations and planning in regard to an idea its engineers had to situate a hydro-electric scheme on the Gordon River by flooding Lake Pedder. With the road completed, the Government revoked the National Park status of the area, quietened opposition to the development and forged ahead.

It all started with the road.

The HEC had been carrying out geologic and survey works for two dams on the Franklin River from as early as 1952. The Mercury newspaper ran a front page article October 18 1955 of the HEC's interest in building these two dams. Attention was diverted when Pedder was flooded but work on the Franklin scheme progressed during the Pedder development. While floodwater began to inundate Pedder's beauty, roadways were dozed into the Franklin River wilderness to the sites where the dams were to be constructed.
In 1976 it released a report on its investigations of this potential which presented two possible ways forward.
The first option was the construction of dams to harness the flows of the lower Gordon River, the Franklin River and the King River to form a single integrated very large hydro-electric impoundment.
A second option was for 4 separate dams, 1 on the upper Gordon River, 1 on the middle Franklin River and 2 on the King River.
In October 1979 the HEC went public with the plan and tabled its 'Report on the Gordon River Power Development Stage Two' in the Tasmanian Parliament which recommended the first of the two options.

The roads were already done.

Map of western Tasmania with the proposed flooding of the Gordon, Franklin and King River catchments overlaid.
Both integrated or separate development plans were to flood the middle Franklin.

Protest action gained overwhelming widespread support resulting with the already UNESCO listed world heritage area satisfying a greater extent of criteria to a higher qualitative degree than anywhere else, being declared a national park. The remarkable people who instigated 'The NO DAMS Controversy' locally known simply as 'The Blockade' ushered in a new era of environmental awareness Australia wide and beyond. Acknowledgement and respect for these people is also imparted to guests at the sites where their various protest and blockade actions are understood to be the beginnings of positive attitudes regarding environment.

Since 2011 we Defenders of The Wilderness have been working to maintain Outstanding Universal Value. Alas, we have witnessed the continuous advance of development into TWWHA which we have observed to have escalated in recent years.

We have submitted more than 50 emailed reports with images and video attached of litter, trees cut down, illegal fossicking, dogs, cats, weed contamination, ATV's and even campfires.....

Yes, Campfires! (We have reported 4 just this season)

Every trip we pull weeds where possible and collect litter (usually drink containers, you can guess the type) then transport it to Queenstown for proper disposal. But this season we could not keep up, there's just too much now. We have found disposable nappies, a chair and even some discarded McDonalds wrappers complete with a takeaway McCafe mug and this just a few hundred metres from an adult Devil carcass we solemnly moved off the 'track'.

It's become apparent that our reporting to various government departments and bureaucracies to halt this stealthy piecemeal development into TWWHA, what's become known in conservation circles as 'death by a thousand cuts', has been directed to those instrumental in.

Our authoritative organisations continue to allow this to occur..... It beggars belief.

Here is just one example of development works that have been carried out consistently for nigh on 10 years now. Always around May-June every year more trees get cut down and the historic Nth Mt Lyell Company rail formation has slowly been widened and developed into a roadway. Even roadside slashing! A sure way to transform it into an avenue of weeds. The last 2 years have seen these development works escalate.

June 2022... Almost 40 years on from The Blockade, earthmoving machinery will again be within 1Km of the middle Franklin River....Why?

What has been known for decades now as the McCall track was once a single lane roadway constructed by the then HEC for the sole purpose of building the number 2 dam that would flood the middle Franklin River. As noted in the opening excerpt this action would have caused the flooded Franklin to divert via the backed up Andrew River and coalesce with the King River catchment which was also to be flooded. The intention was to create a very large impoundment for hydro-electric power generation similar to the flooding of the Serpentine River (Lake Pedder) and Gordon River (Lake Gordon) catchments less than a decade earlier. The excavation of a large canal caused the Huon, Serpentine and Gordon catchments to coalesce into a very large impoundment for the Gordon Power station.

The King River was later flooded during 1991-92 by the construction of two dams, the main Crotty concrete dam and the Darwin dam forming Lake Burbury. The secondary Darwin rockfill dam prevents the flooded King River from draining into the Franklin River via the tributing Andrew River.

The road over Mt McCall, like all the other roads created for this Hydro development was to be returned to a natural state. However, lobbying by the river rafting fraternity saw it left for rafting/kayaking expeditions support, geologic and cultural research and adventurous eco sensitive small group visitation.

Left as a basic maintenance cost free 4x4 track necessitated a level of equipment and skill to negotiate adding an element of intrepidness and adventure. A key to a heavy steel gate we refer to as the last bastion can be obtained from the local PWS offices. Accredited businesses can qualify for the operators license by adhering to extensive protocol and paying the yearly fee, as we have and do, to possess a key ensuring a management strategy that protects and maintains natural Outstanding Universal Value.

After all, this is the Wild Rivers National Park World Heritage Area! Zero environmental impact is the brief here. Leave no trace!

This 'track', after 40 years of recognition as World Heritage Wilderness has again been developed into a roadway with drains, culverts and guide posts all the way to Propsting Gorge where the HEC operated a haulage way to begin work on what was to be a 200 Metre high dam.....WHY?

Minimal disclosure. No announcement and no consultation. No one is talking.

This is how development works have been getting done for years, no consultation, quickly and quietly, funded by the state. This 'track' has begun to be referred to on maps as 'The Franklin River Road' just as it was back when the HEC intended to build the dams. This development and resultant vehicular activity is easily visible from Frenchmans Cap.

TWWHA just took another cut.
The signage and barrier tape disallowing any access whilst development works are being carried out in Tasmania's wilderness world heritage area.
No access until September.

C'mon, we all know what will result from these roadworks facilitating the now imminent increase of vehicles into TWWHA.

What is the motivator?

Is it,

1.... The Tasmanian Liberal Governments reckless tourism strategy?

2.... Lobbying by off road vehicle recreation interests?

3.... One of the many undisclosed EOI's?

4.... Another tilt at Hydro?

I'd stake a wager on numbers 1 and 3. Number 2 will quickly follow if not already a factor. And do not sneer at number 4. It is not as great a stretch as people may think. Most people immediately think of the Gordon below Franklin, otherwise known as the number 1 dam, and yes, it's a ridiculous thought. However, the middle Franklin, otherwise known as the number 2 dam, is not quite as ridiculous. As more earthworks and developments erode the outstanding universal value of this environment the less ridiculous that notion becomes.....It all starts with a road!

Whatever the motivations, all are questionable. Otherwise the relevant offices would be communicating with all stakeholders and publicly.

Regardless of the underlying drivers this is an undisclosed development within TWWHA and be assured there will be an ulterior. Something Reeks!

In any case, this is not in line with maintaining Outstanding Universal Value

Check Appendix 1 point 7 of this report

Did an impact study get carried out? The Tasmanian Aboriginal Council were not consulted which would confirm that there was no impact appraisal. This is World Heritage of the highest order! A key criteria of which is the proven history of people living as one with the environment here for tens of thousands of years.

What our current government has been stealthily doing south of Queenstown for several years now is contravening. A fact which they are undoubtedly aware of as they work covertly for as long as possible before disclosure becomes unavoidable, usually after the act, and even then it's minimal and coated. When questioned they are cagey and if further pressed become dismissive with flawed reasoning at the basis of their responses. Flags have been waved and almost completely ignored for quite some time now.

Action is required.

This is already impacting the Franklin River and Frenchmans Cap. If you have read this far I'm sure you too will be of the opinion that there is no wilderness more sacred.

Whilst political and protest movements we would expect to oppose earthworks in TWWHA are busy driving campaigns to secure new protections for other areas under threat, no one (well, except us it seems) is watching the rear view mirror.

As we aspire to gain protection for other areas a series of earthworks and developments are being carried out in a Tasmanian National Park that has been on the World Heritage List since 1982.

June 2022, roadworks have already been done.

This article is intended as a slap in the face wake up for organisations and offices that should be paying attention that clearly are not.

If these developments are not exposed and addressed let us all re-examine the situation at a later date for a good old session of 'Told You So.'

Pay attention, question these sinister undisclosed actions and ensure Outstanding Universal Value is maintained. Up to this point we have only managed to be an easily silenced squeak trying to lobby political awareness and unite the broader River fraternity and conservation organisations.

Keep Tassie Wild.

Let It Be.

Anthony Coulson


Franklin/Gordon Wild Rivers NP Tasmania

Log entry 2....June 2023 : Wilderness Conservation values impacted

One year on and earlier than expected the time has come for that aforementioned session of

'Told You So.'

Development works in TWWHA have increased with 4 machines working this June.

The road redevelopment is the focus of last year's entry so to follow up as briefly as possible yet bring exposure to the broader range of developments simply blogging the below outgoing email text with a series of images and short videos will do just that. (I've carefully left out the message recipients)

McCall/Franklin RoamWild Tasmania <>Sat, Apr 29, 12:39 PM (3 days ago)

Hi Xxx

Keeping you informed. We got a call from the local rangers office this morning. Machines are headed into the Wild Rivers WHA again to carry out more roadworks... on Monday! I asked some questions, from which all I could glean was that it's an almost no notice PWS regional office directive and the leatherwood honey industry are again doing it. We have very little time but will endeavour to get a trail camera positioned tomorrow if they haven't already closed access, which is likely. We have been told not to go there whilst it happens and that the road will be blocked at the Crotty river bridge just south of the Darwin dam this year. Other things you must all be made aware of... Hydro Tas, PWS, we just don't know, have refurbished a hut at Fincham and installed a helipad beside the River. Hydro Tas have installed another monitoring station over the Andrew River behind the Darwin dam and recently extended the mains power transmission network over Mt Jukes to the Crotty dam. (See attached images) Regards : Anthony --

The hut was first erected by the then HEC near the intended 3rd Franklin River dam site.
Renovated hut at Fincham

Structures installed by Hydro Tasmania for monitoring the Franklin River
Stairs up to Helipad

Helipad constructed by modern Hydro Tasmania at the site of the HEC intended Franklin River 3rd dam is referred to as 'Fincham'
Helipad at Fincham

Hydro Tasmania installed monitoring equipment positioned over the Franklin River near the the then HEC intended 3rd Franklin dam site.
Cables and monitoring device over the Franklin River

Hydro Tasmania recently installed a second monitoring station on the Andrew River, a major Franklin tributary, where it flows behind the King River hydropower development Darwin dam.
Andrew River monitoring station

The Crotty River tributes the Andrew. One day's notice of the works commencement.
24 Tonne bridge into TWWHA

Just one days of Notice given and that was Sunday. Machines were already positioned.
Notice placed Saturday, Work commenced Monday

Crushed rock trucked in and dumped is one of the preparatories for the 2023 redevelopment works. Redevelopment works increased May/June 2022 and again 2023
Material trucked in and dumped prior to notice.

One of three earthmoving machines positioned on Saturday and Sunday. Notice of works was made public on Saturday that works would commence on Monday.
Excavator positioned to commence work.

The preceding years of redevelopment works have made it possible to routinely transport equipment like this to the Mt McCutcheon site. Here, 40 years ago, the HEC's  central operations base for the construction of the Gordon below Franklin and the middle Franklin dams was ready to proceed. We managed to take this image just hours before access was blocked.
Earthmoving equipment at Mt McCutcheon


That's the email sent out and a number of calls were made as well but any awareness of what is truly happening has not effectively had any impact. Works get carried out regardless.

We have earlier gained permission from PWS regional office to hold an event over July 1 weekend to commemorate the high court decision 40 years on. With much irony, The Paragon theatre Queenstown will host an expose' of memorabilia and presentations from that remarkable time bringing many people involved in the Gday campaign back together to repaint the mighty symbol of successful protest action at the Mt McCutcheon site to mark the occasion. But now someone else from PWS are telling us that we are not permitted to use the road, (Yes, it's classed as a road now), maybe until November!

None of this series of works are necessary nor desired which raises many questions as to how and why this can ever occur in TWWHA without disclosure and consultation.

For goodness sake, machines moving earth in TWWHA must raise questions!

I grimace as I sit here in front of the TV typing this log entry : Charles Wooley and Bob just appeared on channel 7 campaigning for protection of a remarkable tract of Tasmanian Rainforest just north of here.

Yes, go team, but The Franklin River is the very epitome of Tasmania's wilderness yet earthmoving machinery authorised and funded by the state have over the last 10 years covertly re-established a road from the Darwin dam of the 1992 King River hydropower scheme to the once proposed middle Franklin dam site.

This has been achieved by contracting the apiarist collecting leatherwood nectar from the pristine rainforests each year. Apiarists who are annually bestowed with a golden opportunity to scope out work for themselves developing roads to further bolster their bottom line. Anyone who dares question any of it is met with bullish confrontation from the leatherwood Honey industry. PWS pass it all off as maintenance. It is also very difficult to question or object when most often there is barely any notice of intended development works, if any, and no one is permitted to go there whilst earth moving machinery is working?

This is far above any level of maintenance that in any event, no stakeholders, except the incentivised apiarists, have requested or desire.

At this point in time we have been told we are not permitted to travel on what is now a developed road into TWWHA to the River so I will just have to walk in and out. It's a long remote walk by any standards that will allow plenty of time to collect more images and video in addition to what we hope the one remote camera that we did manage to set mere hours before access was blocked may have recorded. When that occurs you will be able to see it here. Stay tuned.

Keep Tassie Wild

Let It Be

Anthony Coulson


Franklin/Gordon Wild Rivers NP Tasmania

Log entry 3.... Fri Nov 3 2023

I did not get an opportunity to walk in and get the camera. Unanswered calls and voice messages left with the local PWS Rangers office just left us feeling ostracized for a three month period until we received an email message informing us that we could start operating in the space again. I can retrieve the remote camera.

This is some of the video it captured from the River gorge side of Mt McCall. This is just one of multiple machines working for a considerable amount of time. Note the truck bringing in foreign material.

From this short capture it is clear that standard SUV's can now drive to the middle Franklin.

The Wild Rivers NP of TWWHA just became much less wild.

Keep Tassie Wild

Let It Be

Anthony Coulson - RoamWild Tasmania Logistics

1 Comment

Jun 20

Never trust the HEC. Scoping out the Franklin, Olga, Gordon etc for dam sites since the late 1940s. If they'd gotten their own way we would have the Gordon below Franklin, Gordon above Olga, and the middle Franklin (Franklin below Andrew?) in addition to Gordon and Pedder all 'gracing' the SW. At least the Darwin Dam would have been a wasted effort.

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