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SOUTH COAST, TASMANIA

Southwest National Park

Proposed Development Project:  South Coast Track

Image credit: Dan Broun

The South Coast Track (SCT) is a remote, 85 kilometre bushwalking track along one of the planet’s last true wilderness coastlines. Walkers embarking on the seven-day trek explore untouched forests, wild open beaches and rugged mountain ranges in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. This area is also the sacred ancient heartland of the palawa people. This proposal to construct six lodges along the track threatens to erode the pristine natural environment, the wilderness and cultural values of this World Heritage area


THE DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL IN BRIEF:

- Construction of six luxury lodges along the SCT for the exclusive use of Wild Bush Luxury clients.
- Installation of greywater systems that will pose risks to water quality and local flora and fauna
- Expensive, unnecessary upgrades to sections of the walking track to accommodate lodge customers

THE DEVELOPER:

Wild Bush Luxury Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Experience Co

Image credit: Dan Broun

Background

The South Coast Track is one of the world’s last remaining great coastal wilderness walks. It is stunning but also remote and challenging: Over its 85 kilometres, intrepid hikers explore ancient forests and pristine beaches, and scale the rugged heights of the Ironbound mountain range.

To the modern traveller this is a place of wild beauty. But the SCT is also an ancient pathway, a trading route used for millennia by the first Tasmanians, the palawa people. This sacred land is no wilderness to them: it is their heartland and the centre of their community's creation story.

These two components - the sacred and the wild - make this a place of extreme importance to the global community, recognised as such by the World Heritage Committee.

There is no place for luxury lodges in this culturally and environmentally significant area of Tasmania’s Southwest National Park. This proposed development puts shareholders first and the community last. It is a clear case of a profit-seeking business trying to commercialise our national parks, in the process degrading one of Australia’s best-preserved natural landscapes while excluding existing users.

Image credit: Dan Broun

The Proposed Development

Experience Co inherited this proposal when they bought Maria Island Walk, a Tasmanian-based tourism operation. The company decided to pursue this divisive project but has resisted all requests for detailed, transparent information. To date, we know the development includes:
  • Six luxury lodges with bedrooms, hot showers, a kitchen and common areas. These will forever change the wilderness nature of the SCT and impact an ancient Aboriginal track
  • The main building will be as long and twice as wide as a metro bus. No further information is available: number of storeys, outbuildings, other associated infrastructure etc
  • Significant amounts of vegetation will be destroyed to make way for the lodges
  • Sections of the track will need extensive upgrading to meet the expectations of Wild Bush Luxury’s clientele

Approximate locations of the proposed lodges

The Problems with the Development

Based on the scant details available so far, this proposal raises major concerns, and the scope and potential footprints are unacceptable in an area with minimal impact from built structures. Currently the only buildings along the 85 kilometres of the SCT are simple toilets. This luxury development would offer no advantage to the general public, only reduce access and erode the area’s wilderness values through loss of tens of thousands of hectares of measured natural heritage. 

It’s worth noting that this assessment was made prior to knowing the locations of lodge nodes, and without considering the additional impact using helicopters to construct and service the lodges (as well as transport guests) would have on wilderness values.

At present only a few helicopter flights over the SCT are needed annually for essential maintenance, science, search and rescue, and cultural purposes. Lodge construction and maintenance would bring a constant, serenity-destroying helicopter presence over the designated Wilderness Zone of the Southwest National Park. We could see possibly double or triple the numbers of flights associated with the popular Three Capes Track facilities.

There is a serious risk that greywater system failure from the waste-water disposal system will degrade the water quality in creek and river systems, posing a health threat to local aquatic flora and fauna, as well as campers. There is also a risk of damage to soil and vegetation surrounding the proposed absorption beds. One of the proposed hut sites is less than 50 metres from a public campground that relies on environmental flow for drinking and cooking water. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has specifically stated that lodges should not be located on moorlands and sedgelands due to the risk of contamination. We already know that greywater treatment at the Tasmanian Walking Company’s Overland Track huts has been an ongoing problem (refer to the Further Information section for more details).

The proposal leans on the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service to upgrade sections of the SCT to grade 4 level, the estimated cost of which is more than $32 million. This huge cost would be purely for the benefit of Wild Bush Luxury’s guests.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal community rejects this project and has not been consulted, despite UNESCO requirements for a full cultural heritage assessment prior to any development of a World Heritage-listed property.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service cautions that ‘careful consideration’ should be given to any increased usage of the SCT to protect eagle habitat. There are eight active eagle nests known to be in the vicinity, one very close to the proposed Louisa River lodge location. Increased activity (human and helicopter) from the luxury accommodation complex will have a negative impact on this iconic wildlife.


Current distribution of wild character (WC) in the vicinity of the South Coast, Tasmania. Red, magenta and blue lines indicate roads, vehicle tracks and walking tracks respectively. Map source: Refining the definition of Wilderness: Safeguarding the experiential and ecological values of remote natural land [Hawes, M, Dixon, G & Bell, C (2018)]
Projected distribution of wild character in the vicinity of the South Coast, Tasmania following construction of six walkers’ huts (indicated by red squares). Map source: Refining the definition of Wilderness: Safeguarding the experiential and ecological values of remote natural land  [Hawes, M, Dixon, G & Bell, C (2018)]

Current status

The proposal is listed on the Tasmanian Government’s website with the statement: ‘formal assessment and approval processes under way’. There haven’t been any open public consultations and the Reserve Activity Assessment (the process used by Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service’s to assess the environmental impact of proposals) has not been made public.

Conservation groups are working with the Aboriginal community and stakeholders, ready to defend this extraordinary place.

Further information

You can learn more about the South Coast Track here:
  • Tasmanian National Parks Association
  • Right to Information documents - Link coming soon!


How you can help

- Write a letter to the Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, expressing your concerns about the Tasmanian Government’s ‘Unlocking the potential in our Parks’ policy, and advocating for national parks that are well managed, publicly accessible, and kept free from destructive helicopters and developments.
- Write to your local member.
- Register your objection to the proponent, Wild Bush Luxury Pty Ltd.
- Walk the South Coast Track and advocate for its protection on your social media.




Image credit: Dan Broun