De­fend­ing Tower Hill

Tower Hill State Game Re­serve is a unique vol­canic for­ma­tion en­joyed by thou­sands of tourists, but a new push to ban hunt­ing ig­nores his­tory and would ex­clude duck hunters, the very peo­ple who vol­un­tar­ily helped to res­cue it from a cen­tury of en­vi­ron­menta

Field and Game - - 2018 NATIONAL CARNIVAL -

An e-pe­ti­tion spon­sored by Vic­to­rian MP James Pur­cell gives a brief, and mislead­ing, his­tory of Tower Hill in the ‘griev­ance’, stat­ing: “It was de­clared a Na­tional Park in 1892, but after years of degra­da­tion from clear­ing, over graz­ing and quar­ry­ing it was clas­si­fied as a Game Re­serve in 1961. This clas­si­fi­ca­tion re­mains in spite of years of plant­ing to reveg­e­tate the grounds, plus con­struc­tion of a vis­i­tor cen­tre de­signed by Robyn Boyd and run by the Worn Gun­didj Abo­rig­i­nal Co-op­er­a­tive.”

A more ful­some his­tory would in­clude the enor­mous amount of work done by hunters fol­low­ing the 1962 SGR dec­la­ra­tion to re­store Tower Hill based on Out­look, an 1855 paint­ing by Vi­en­nese artist, Eu­gene von Guer­ard.

Barry Quigley, a life mem­ber of War­rnam­bool Field & Game, was one of those early vol­un­teers.

“We did a lot of tree plant­ing. I also helped or­gan­ise the build­ing of some is­lands; we had a num­ber of work­ing bees to do that,” he re­called.

Barry said that as well as re­stric­tions on hunt­ing times, ac­cess to some ar­eas had been made more dif­fi­cult by track clo­sures.

In­stead of lock­ing out hunters, he sug­gested open­ing up ac­cess, not only for hunt­ing but for con­ser­va­tion works in ar­eas most peo­ple never get to.

“I’m not a big fan of Na­tional Parks, it tends to be a lock and leave sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “I’m well out of hunt­ing but the re­stric­tions on Tower Hill came in be­cause it has be­come a bit of an icon as far as tourism is con­cerned. But the clo­sure of tracks that were used for hunt­ing years ago has meant peo­ple don’t see prob­lems de­vel­op­ing.”

Tower Hill, a vol­canic for­ma­tion cre­ated 30 000 years ago, is the largest nested maar for­ma­tion in Vic­to­ria but as it pushed through the earth’s crust it also forged a shal­low crater, which later filled with wa­ter to cre­ate the lake.

The im­por­tance of the site was recog­nised by hunters and soon after Field & Game formed in 1958, Max Downes, then su­per­in­ten­dent of Game Man­age­ment, made it abun­dantly clear in a re­port that hunters were needed to save Tower Hill. “In sum­mary, it is sug­gested that a State Game Re­serve is the best way of de­vel­op­ing the unique wildlife man­age­ment po­ten­tial of Tower Hill,” he wrote. “This de­vel­op­ment could not be achieved un­der any other sys­tem. From a wildlife as­pect, it is un­nec­es­sary to pro­hibit shoot­ing on the lake since this will achieve no con­ser­va­tion pur­pose, yet con­sid­er­ably re­strict pub­lic use of the re­serve.”

The ques­tion be­ing asked now, in light of the lat­est push, is what has changed?

“There are still peo­ple who use it for

hunt­ing de­spite the re­stric­tions and there should be more in­put from the hunt­ing fra­ter­nity on what hap­pens and how it is man­aged,” Barry said. “I still visit two or three times a month just to look through and it doesn’t ap­pear to have the man­age­ment it needs, most of the fo­cus seems to be on the vis­i­tor cen­tre and tourism,” he said. “I can’t see any ben­e­fit in re­mov­ing hunt­ing as an ac­tiv­ity there or turn­ing it into a Na­tional Park.”

War­rnam­bool Field & Game pres­i­dent Ge­off Mor­ris said the branch put con­sid­er­able money into the vis­i­tor cen­tre, fund­ing the plan­ning and de­sign costs to get it built. “This lat­est push to take it away from be­ing a State Game Re­serve has been done very qui­etly,” he said. “Not once have we been in­vited to go to one of the meet­ings or de­bate the is­sue. “We de­serve the right to be in­cluded in any dis­cus­sion about re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion; we were there right from the start and our mem­bers put a lot of time, ef­fort and money into the vol­cano.”

The ar­gu­ment that Tower Hill should have been one of our first Na­tional Parks and that mak­ing the change would cor­rect the his­tor­i­cal record has lit­tle merit.

When it came to the time of gazetting, Tower Hill was con­sid­ered to be so de­graded it was left out. It was only in the 1960s after dec­la­ra­tion as a State Game re­serve that hunters and field nat­u­ral­ists joined to­gether to re­ha­bil­i­tate the land­scape.

The at­trac­tion vis­i­tors en­joy now ex­ists in large part due to the vol­un­teer con­ser­va­tion ef­forts of hunters. “We had a lot to do with bring­ing the bird pop­u­la­tions back and we put money into the in­for­ma­tion cen­tre; we paid for the plans to be drawn up, it was called the Nat­u­ral His­tory Cen­tre then,” Ge­off said.

“As much as it is a tourist at­trac­tion, there has been very lit­tle money spent on it in re­cent times. “We were there right at the start when they were cry­ing out for peo­ple to help, and while it isn’t the eas­i­est place to hunt ducks, if they want to change it, they should in­vite us to the ta­ble.”

Pho­tos cour­tesy Matt Lin­ton Pho­tog­ra­phy

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