Thursday 10 June 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council

‘Beneath the Tamar:  More Than Silt'
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Who would have believed it, Madam President, at the bottom of the Tamar estuary there is a world of colourful marine diversity more like the Great Barrier Reef than a scene of sludge and silt.  I will show you a collection of photos that were taken; these are in fact of the bottom of the Tamar River.  It is quite spectacular.

I recommend that members of this House have a look at this remarkable exhibition of photographs about the floor of the Tamar estuary.  It is on display at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston's Inveresk.  It is, as you can see just from that brief profile, absolutely mind-boggling.

Mr Parkinson - What part of the estuary have they taken photos of?

Mr FINCH - You will be able to talk to the chap who did the swimming underneath the Tamar.  He is here as my guest today.  It is David Maynard and Dr Troy Gaston who co-curated this exhibition which was set up to mark the International Year of Biodiversity.  It shows the incredible range of biodiversity that we have on the floor of the Tamar estuary which most people of course never get to see and, as well, find very hard to believe. 

The exhibition is called 'Beneath the Tamar:  More Than Silt'.  It will particularly appeal to the member for Western Tiers.  The floor of the Tamar is indeed more than silt.  The mixture of photographs and videos in the exhibition shows the range of sponges, the kelp forests, the seagrass beds and the rocky reefs.  There are anemones, crabs, fish and rays, sea dragons, starfish, and it is as colourful as a tropical lagoon.  As you enter the John Lees Atrium you are greeted by a photograph of Hippocampus abdominalis - it is a big-bellied seahorse.  You would not believe that such a beautiful creature could exist.  I know that when he took the photo in the Tamar, David put a white sheet behind it which enabled him to capture that photograph. 

The exhibition is a project of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the Australian Maritime College and Natural Resource Management North and is, as mentioned, curated by David Maynard and Dr Troy Gaston - both lecturers at the at the National Centre for Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability Australian Maritime College.  They have done a brilliant job, Madam President.  With other marine ecology, river health and water-quality experts they are going to hold a student forum on 25 June to raise awareness of the Tamar estuary's ecology.  They point out that it is a vulnerable ecology that needs research and careful monitoring with community involvement.  This exhibition should help achieve that but much more needs to be done.  Some of this marine flora and fauna has not been classified and named, so much more research is necessary. 

One problem is that most of Tasmania's marine science is focused on Antarctica while most of the risks to our aquatic environment are likely to come from the north.  I, for one, would like to see more University of Tasmania marine research resources allocated to our northern campus.  This exhibition shows that the Tamar is in fact more than silt, but sedimentation continues to be a risk to that marine environment.  The curators believe that we need to wind back sedimentation to natural rates and, as the member for Western Tiers mentioned, it is about one-third of the current rate.  We need to remove the excessive build-up.  The above-natural nutrient load coming from catchment and urban areas is also an issue.  While estuaries thrive on nutrients, excessive nutrient loads effectively overdose the system. 

Some of us tend to take the beautiful Tamar estuary for granted so this exhibition is in fact a wake-up call.  Just to refresh the memories of those here, the Tamar catchment comprises 18 per cent of Tasmania's landmass - 10 000 square kilometres.  The estuary itself is 70 kilometres long and has a surface area of 100 square kilometres.  The surface itself is very beautiful and is an important tourism asset - both sides.  I will include you in that, member for Windermere, as it is your area, and the member for Launceston as well.  But what is beneath, as you can see, is even more beautiful. 

Madam President, last year our committee of inquiry into the management of the Tamar estuary and its catchments recommended a single statutory authority to coordinate management of the whole catchment - as I said earlier, 18 per cent of Tasmania's landmass.  Having seen this wonderful exhibition, I believe we must act urgently to preserve the Tamar estuary's biodiversity in the best way we can.