Wa­ter f ight

Australian Geographic - - Travel With Us -

ONE OF THE coun­try’s most no­table en­vi­ron­men­tal bat­tles be­gan in 1978, when Tassie’s Hy­dro-Elec­tric Com­mis­sion (HEC) pro­posed damming the mid­dle sec­tion of Tas­ma­nia’s Gor­don River, which would have im­pacted the flow of the Franklin. The dam was to sup­port a 180-megawatt hy­dro-elec­tric power scheme and cre­ate jobs on Tas­ma­nia’s west coast. Ear­lier that decade, Tas­ma­nian con­ser­va­tion­ists had been heart­bro­ken when they un­suc­cess­fully cam­paigned against the damming of the Ser­pen­tine and Huon rivers, which con­tro­ver­sially flooded the an­cient Lake Ped­der. When the Franklin, one of Aus­tralia’s last great wild rivers, seemed at risk, they rapidly swung into ac­tion and a pro­tracted bat­tle be­gan. Cra­dle Moun­tain-Lake St Clair Na­tional Park, Franklin-Lower Gor­don Wild Rivers Na­tional Park and South­west NP had been suc­cess­fully nom­i­nated for World Her­itage list­ing. But in 1982, a newly elected Lib­eral state govern­ment at­tempted to re­move parts of the Franklin River from the Wild Rivers NP, to al­low the pro­posal for a dam on the Gor­don to pro­ceed. This ini­ti­ated the largest acts of mass civil dis­obe­di­ence seen in Aus­tralia – the Franklin River Block­ade, de­signed to dis­rupt build­ing and clear­ing for the pro­posed dam. Led by the Tas­ma­nian Wilder­ness So­ci­ety, which later formed it­self into the Greens po­lit­i­cal party, it be­gan on 14 De­cem­ber 1982, and ran through that sum­mer, re­sult­ing in the ar­rests of more than 1200 peo­ple. The Tas­ma­nian govern­ment was of­fered huge amounts of money by the then Lib­eral fed­eral govern­ment to move the dam site out­side the World Her­itage area. This was, how­ever, re­jected, as was a sim­i­lar of­fer from the Hawke La­bor govern­ment when it came to power. Fi­nally, in 1983 the Hawke govern­ment passed reg­u­la­tions for­bid­ding any HEC works within the bound­aries of the World Her­itage area. A High Court chal­lenge to this was de­feated on 1 July 1983, and the Franklin River was saved for­ever.

Pro­test­ers fight­ing to save this wild river’s fu­ture cap­tured the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion and turned it into a fed­eral elec­tion is­sue.

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