Lake Geeves, Eastern Arthur Range, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Photo: Grant Dixon

The Geeves Effect – another attack on wilderness

Recent media reports have announced the completion of a so-called Demand Study into another development that would have a major negative impact on Tasmania’s wilderness. The proposal is seemingly supported by the Tasmanian government and has been uncritically supported by the opposition Labour Party.

The Geeves Effect is based around a proposal to construct a high grade walking track and associated accommodation in the vicinity of the iconic Federation Peak, within the wildest part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), with an associated “ecotourism precinct” outside the TWWHA. This will supposedly to encourage an influx of visitors to the Huon Valley region.

Previously publicity regarding the proposal has lacked detail but a preliminary Business Case now describes the proposal as involving a 20 km track (a major upgrade and possible rerouting of the existing 17.5 km rough track to the base of Moss Ridge, plus 2.5 km new track to Lake Geeves and two accommodation nodes).  The proposal appears to be modelled on the Three Capes Track so the accommodation nodes could be as large and intrusive as those on constructed there. It is estimated the track and huts would cost about $17 million to build and envisages use by 10,000 walkers per year.

It has been suggested the idea may rival the Three Capes Track as a claimed tourism success story, although there remain serious questions regarding the overall economics of this development, and even Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council chief Luke Martin has been quoted as unenthusiastic about the Geeves Effect proposal.

One thing the Geeves Effect would have in common with the Three Capes development is the destruction of wilderness. Construction of the Three Capes Track significantly degraded the wild character of Tasman National Park. But the impact of the Geeves Effect would be in an altogether different league.

The proposed development would destroy some of the highest-quality temperate wilderness in Australia. Federation Peak has been a place for self-reliant recreation and adventure more than 60 years. The rough means of access, together with its weather and rugged landscape, help guarantee its seclusion and ecological integrity. Some places should remain undeveloped. Lake Geeves – currently trackless and rarely visited – is one of them. There are plenty of settings outside the World Heritage Area’s wildest country that can provide opportunities for the sort of activities and facilities envisaged by the Geeves Effect proponents.

Tasmania’s wilderness is also besieged by a number of proposals emerging under the government’s Expressions of Interest process. But the Geeves Effect proposal does not even comply with the controversial pro-development statutory management plan for the TWWHA, signed off by the government only last year. One therefore wonders why the Geeves Effect proposal is even being seriously touted; another example of the lack of respect for planning instruments when they don’t suit an agenda.

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