Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Mt Wellington - 30 & 31 Jan 2007 - the mountain bike ISSUE

The Radford Memorial, Radfords Track, Mt Wellington - 30 Jan 2007
So where are mountain bikes allowed to be ridden on Mt Wellington? And how fast do we expect them to travel on shared tracks? And is it policed? And what are the sanctions for misuse?
The worst track for this on Mt Wellington appears to be Radfords Track, between Ferntree and The Springs. It's a shared track, so bikes can use it. Too often though, they hurtle down it like some single-track raceway. Well fellas, it ain't! It's a track with corners you can't see round, and people walking slowly uphill who can't hear you coming.
So the total idiots who hurtled down there Tuesday evening need to acquaint themselves with both the rules and some common sense. If you hit a child or an elderly person at the speed you were doing, you could kill them. That'd wipe the self-satisfied smirk off your face. I got your number mate. When passing walkers, slow down to their pace!!
I wonder if there's any internal pressure amongst mountain-bike riders to curtail the worst excesses? There had better be, otherwise I have a mind to start a campaign to have them barred from all non-vehicular tracks. They just can't be trusted to ride with a modicum of common sense.
Skidmark on Fern Glade Track - 30 Jan 2007And since when was the Fern Glade Track open to bikes. No fellas, it ain't. One of your clever-trousered mates might have scratched the little icon off the sign, but you can all read the bike map can't you. Or are you all totally thick? Mmmm.. So the bike rider who made these rather obvious skids down the length of the Fern Glade Track on Tuesday could please keep to tracks where bikes are allowed. (Hint: Get a map donkey! 773kb) And stop tearing up our walking tracks please.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Battery Point foreshore - 27th January 2007

Mmmm, it's not really a BUSHwalk. But it was a walk, although quite a short one. You can start at the CSIRO laboratories, and just walk around the shore. There are quite a few small and large jetties/boatramps which are quite easy to negotiate. One is a little more imposing, and still under construction, but easy to walk over. Then, after a while you get to the scene at left. The owner of this property seems to have put a lot of effort into blocking access along the shore. We decided to stop at this point, as no doubt we'd have been trespassing unless we waded. We were probably trespassing before this at some point too. At least the trespassing problem will go away. Also, this article from Margaretta Pos is interesting.

I'm interested in the links between the Battery Point story and the general political landscape. Apart from the obvious characters involved, there's also the fact that somewhere in the past, some incompetent (or worse) in government service managed to give title to low-water to two property owners in Battery Point. Error or gift?

Saturday, 27 January 2007

South Cape Bay - 26th January 2007

South Cape Bay panorama - 26th Jan 2007
Went off for another walk to South Cape Bay yesterday, as my personal celebration of Australia Day. Actually, I have a new camera, and wanted somewhere to try it out. Everyone else seemed to be going there too, including one large group that I suspect was from the Hobart Walking Club. I didn't ask.

South Cape Bay view showing exposed rock and changing shape - 26th Jan 2007The shape of the beach has changed again since I went in December. A lot of bedrock remains exposed at the eastern end of the beach, but the sand seems to be returning slowly. There's a sandy protrusion in the middle of the beach, seemingly produced by the effect of reefs, and it looks like the beach is slowly reforming outwards from this area. The geomorphology of beaches seems to be fairly complex!

Tessellated sections of rock, South Cape Bay - 26th Jan 2007
I noticed that there are what appear to be tessellated sections of the bedrock at the north end of the beach. They seem to have (broadly) three sets of cracks, and my recollection is that this is the case at the Tessellated Pavement near Eaglehawk Neck. I'll have to check. I've never noticed these before, and I wonder if in past years they've been covered with sand or kelp. They're only visible at low tide at the eastern end of the beach.

Echidna, South Cape Bay track - 26th Jan 2007Saw an echidna on the way back. He was quite unconcerned at the presence of three bushwalkers within about 2 feet of where he was digging for ants on the track. My kids want to know if he was looking for jackjumpers, which made me wonder if he was, and whether he was immune to the bites...

Monday, 22 January 2007

Mt Wellington - 22 January 2007

I had a brief walk early this morning. The rain had stopped, after the downpour on Sunday. Glenorchy got 96mm or something! Walked up the Fern Glade track towards the Springs. Had to get to work afterwards, so I didn't go all the way to the Springs. Disturbed a wallaby and a kookaburra. Very pleasant walk as the sun comes up.
Sue Neales had an interesting opinion piece in the Mercury on Saturday canvassing the possibility that there's some sort of conspiracy going on around the pulp mill. Sue doesn't think Mr Gay and Mr Lennon have conspired. No, probably not. It is rumoured however that Gunns really only want to acquire the right to chip more timber. Maybe there's no conspiracy, just Gunns playing a double game so they win even if they lose. That would make financial sense for them, wouldn't it? So look out for the point at which the government commits the timber, and then if the mill doesn't get up, watch Gunns demand to retain those rights even if they're going to export it all as chips, not pulp! (No conspiracy would mean that Mr Lennon hasn't been let in on this! - Do you think he'll be p___d if it's true?)

Monday, 15 January 2007

Lovely sunset on some of Tassie's forests

The view from beside the highway in downtown Burnie. Bit gratuitous I know, but will the pulp mill replace this export of unprocessed Tasmanian forests? It seems not, despite promises that it would. But you come to expect a bit of disingenuous behaviour living in Tasmania. I think you can just make out the woodchip pile here, so yes, I think you probably CAN see it from space!

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Hartz Peak - 13th January 2007

New paved trackwork above Hartz Pass, Hartz Mountains - 13th Jan 2007
Had a rather windy walk up Hartz Peak yesterday. Didn't have a lot of time available, so it was just a quick trip, up and back. They've done quite a lot of track work recently above Hartz Pass and close to the summit. There is now a paved track for much of the distance. It was so windy at one point that I was blown off the track, and my sunnies blew off. Cold at the top, and the view was obscured by mist and drizzle.
Prostrate shrub high on hartz Pk, probably Orites revoluta - 13th Jan 2007The plants up there put up with a lot, and there's this particular plant lying across the track. It's a "prostrate" shrub, but it clearly resembles a tree lying down. I think it's an Orites revoluta, but it could be Olearia ledifolia (known as the Daisy Bush). Apparently they are often confused, and the only difference is the colour of the underside of the rolled-up leaves ("revolute"). It was a bit windy for checking things like that, even if I'd known it at the time.
Progress on new visitor shelter, Hartz Mountains - 13th Jan 2007The building of the visitor shelter at the end of the road is proceeding noticeably now. Looks like it will be a quite attractive building, if a little obvious.

The predictable response on Wielangta (and some stuff about the pulpmill)

So, having been caught out breaking the law, Paul Lennon and Erica Betts apologised and agreed that their governments would urgently seek to work together to correct the situation. Yes, right, in which delusion?? No dummy, they're going to work together to change the law they've been breaking! It's easier than appealing. Why? Because their case was so appalling, and opened up so many avenues for criticism of their moral and political approach, let alone their actual adherence to the letter of the law, that they really don't want to go there again.
But Erica's overstating the issue, of course, as expected. Basically, Forestry Tasmania has thought itself to be exempt from the requirements of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), but the judge found that they weren't. This is because they were still supposed to look after threatened species, even though covered by the RFA, which does provide for some exemption. Really Erica, the judgment doesn't say that developers absolutely have to enhance the chances for threatened species, it says that they should at least not harm them. Which seems perfectly reasonable doesn't it? And quite frankly, why shouldn't a government agency, acting on behalf of taxpayers, actually enhance the chances that our threatened species might survive?? This is the Wedge-Tailed Eagle we're talking about here.
And on the pulpmill, just read this scathing assessment, and the follow-up. Methinks we're all in a lot of trouble! And just note that our problems have been noticed across the country, and the world. Isn't it nice to know our politicians' credibility (or if it's been removed, see the google cache, or even have a look at the google search!!!) is held in such high esteem elsewhere!

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Some pictures of the Wielangta threatened species

Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle

The Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) - And more info here.

The Broad-Toothed Stag Beetle

The Broad-Toothed Stag Beetle (Lissotes latidens) - Some info here also

Swift Parrot

The Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) - And info about its threatened status here.

Interesting Wielangta Forest decision in Federal Court

It's now quite well known that Bob Brown had a victory in his court battle with Forestry Tasmania, and effectively with the State of Tasmania and the Commonwealth. No doubt there are appeals to come, and who knows how it will end up.

More interesting for me than the actual decision, which could go either way after appeal, was the attitude of the respondents and interveners. Overall I get a clear picture of a government and government agency who are quite open about their disregard for the law and its requirements, and in particular the impact of environmental law, and the expectations of Australians, on the right of one large company to make profits.

The case was about the Wielangta Forest on the state's east coast, and whether Forestry Tasmania were adhering to the RFA. Bob Brown also challenged the actual validity of the RFA, but he lost this point. What he did establish was that Forestry Tasmania and the State government haven't been fulfilling their responsibilities under the RFA - they've been acting illegally. You really should read through the summary of the judgment. But just to whet your appetite, and make clear the tone of the response by Forestry Tasmania and the State government, here are some highlights:

Para 228 probably most clearly identifies the government's appalling attitude to environmental requirements - They have openly contended that their responsibility is not to actually ensure the protection of species, but merely to try to do so.

  • "The State of Tasmania submits...The State’s obligation is satisfied, not through the actual protection of species...but through the employment of the CAR reserve system.."

Well I'll be hornswoggled! The State of Tasmania is playing semantics to try to wriggle out of the expectations we have of it. We expect the government to do something to preserve species that are threatened, and while many people might be unsure of the value of preserving a stag beetle, most would agree that the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is a pretty important animal to retain. So the State doesn't think it's actually obliged by the law to protect species, just to put in place a reserve system that ought to suffice.

As we see however, in great detail, they haven't even done this. Reading further, there are a series of marvellous observations by the judge, Justice Marshall. To start with he savages many of the expert witnesses appearing for Forestry Tasmania.

  • On Mr Meggs' cross examination (para 117): "Mr Meggs was frequently evasive and appeared to me to be much more of an advocate for the cause of Forestry Tasmania than an independent expert."
  • And (para 120): "Mr Meggs gave evidence that he changed no matter of substance in his affidavit in consequence of this ‘peer review process’. That evidence is false."
  • On the independence and value of Dr Roberts' evidence (para 132): "I am not satisfied Dr Roberts is an independent expert witness. She was at the heart of guiding Forestry Tasmania’s overall strategy in this case. Her evidence does not assist me."
  • And (para 161): "Unfortunately, Dr Shields appeared to me to be more concerned to be an advocate for Forestry Tasmania than being an independent expert assisting the Court."

Eventually we come to the judge's findings, especially about whether the three species in question have been adequately protected. As we see, the state doesn't think it has a responsibility to actually protect species, just to put in place a 'system'. The system doesn't work though, and quite frankly, should we be surprised, especially given the basic attitude, and the underlying incompetence of our state government?

Justice Marshall has this to say:

  • "The State has failed to protect the beetle through the CAR Reserve System." (para 262); "...parrot..." (para 267); "...eagle..." (para 270)
  • "I do not consider that the State has protected the eagle by applying relevant management prescriptions. Management prescriptions have helped to slow the eagle’s extinction but have not protected it in the sense of either maintaining existing numbers or restoring the species to pre-threatened levels." (para 281); beetle and parrot in paras 273 & 275.
  • And I just love this (para271): In answer to the question, "Will the State protect the three species through the CAR Reserve System in the future?", the judge writes, "The best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour. There is no evidence on which to conclude that the State can or will protect the species through the CAR Reserve System, in isolation, in the future."

Overall, the Judge found that the State wasn't fulfilling its obligations to protect threatened species, and as a result had failed to carry out forestry operations in accordance with the RFA.

What I find most appalling is the attitude the state and Forestry Tasmania were willing to display in court, in writing, in evidence, and firmly on the record. Not that this is really a surprise to anyone who has followed the environmental debates (or any other political events) in Tasmania over the years. Any appeal could be interesting, but the attitude of the government in this trial will stand in the record, exposing the protection of threatened species as a sham, designed to fulfil theoretical, legal obligations rather than achieve any concrete outcome.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Mt Roland - 26 Dec 2006

Mt Roland from Claude Rd, 26th Dec 2006
My brother climbed Mt Roland (near Sheffield) with me on Boxing Day. Three hours return was the estimated walk time for the route from Claude Road straight up the north face. Chris is pretty fit, but it’s all “jogging round Lake Burley Griffin” fitness. The steep walk was another thing, and he found it a challenge. Anyway, we made it, (took us about 2 hrs each way!) and the views are spectacular, particularly given the steepness of the terrain.
Scoparia on the Mt Roland plateau, 26th Dec 2006The track starts in Kings Road, leading up the hill from the village of Claude Road. It climbs to the base of the cliffs, and then sidles left (east) to the bottom of the gully which obviously cleaves the cliffs from bottom to top. It climbs very steeply up this gully, often enabling use of hands to climb as well as feet. Once above the gully, there’s very pleasant walking for maybe 1.3 km across the top of the mountain, with only a couple of places where rock-hopping or scrambling is required. The wildflowers were quite attractive, and extensive areas of Scoparia made a pleasant scene.
View from the top of the gully on the track to Mt Roland from Claude Rd, 26th Dec 2006Views from the top are said to include Cradle Mt, but it was cloudy in that direction. The view to Bass Strait is certainly impressive, and the whole plain is laid out below the mountain. The walk along the plateau looks like it would be great. The plateau walking seems quite easy, and the guidebooks suggest the grades are gentle.
View of the Sheffield area from near the summit of Mt Roland, 26th Dec 2006On returning to Sheffield, and obtaining the pamphlet about the walks, I note that it says of our chosen route “This approach is potentially dangerous and is not the recommended track to the Mt Roland summit.” The others are longer though, and we didn’t have the time to take a longer walk. Sore knees at the end of the walk reminded us of the steepness and magnitude of the climb, which is around an 800m rise, around 650m of which seems to be gained in about 2.5km (maybe less) from the start of the walk. Here's a website with a lot of pictures and info about the Mt Roland area.