Hansard of the Legislative Council
14 April 2011


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - We Tasmanians often become blasé about our surroundings. Not only do we take the natural assets of this island for granted but we have a tendency, as we go about our daily lives, to not even be aware of the often beautiful surroundings that we enjoy. It is often only when we go away and return to Tasmania that we start to appreciate them, or when showing a visitor some of Tasmania's assets and then you see them through their eyes.
Launceston's Cataract Gorge and First Basin are an obvious example; a rugged natural feature only 15 minutes' walk from the CBD - I might add only 15 minutes' walk from my home too at the southern end of my electorate of Rosevears.
Mrs Taylor - Uphill?
Mr FINCH - Downhill all the way. I should not have got involved in that.
Do not get me wrong, Launceston people do appreciate the gorge and it becomes pretty obvious when the gorge's integrity is threatened. They use it; they take visitors to see it; kids swim in the First Basin and in the swimming pool, the restaurant on the western side is usually busy - and a good restaurant too, and there is a refurbished cafe across the First Basin that is well patronised. But people often do not appreciate it for its uniqueness. What other city in the world can boast such a place, 15 minutes from the CBD?
The Cataract Gorge is well visited, Madam President, but it should be much more of a tourism symbol than it is. The Lonely Planet puts the gorge at number 10 on 47 things to do in northern Tasmania. I believe it should be number one of the things to do when visiting Launceston.
Mr Wilkinson - What is number one?
Mr FINCH - Our gorge has a chairlift, it has the restaurant, the caf�, a suspension bridge, spectacular walking tracks, an inclinator, an interpretive centre in the Duck Reach Power Station -
Members interjecting.
Mr Parkinson - Tamar silt, I reckon, at low tide.
Ms Rattray - Is Triabunna on that list?
Mr FINCH - I am glad I have your interest because that hydro-electric power station at Duck Reach was in fact the first in the Southern Hemisphere to light a whole city when it began in 1895.
Mr Wilkinson - And now it's left to your smile.
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - The gorge offers abseiling, rock climbing and kayaking. In fact, the 2007 Australian Kayaking Championships were held there. Its cliff grounds with the peacocks impress every visitor. The Launceston City Council, of course, is constantly improving the whole Cataract Gorge Reserve but somehow it is not quite the tourist draw that I think it should be and of course it is competing with many other attractions around the State which are constantly being improved, which is a good thing.
The gorge receives plenty of publicity but it is possible that there is something missing in the way that we attract visitors to the gorge. It is not the must-visit venue that it should be. Perhaps the key would be the redevelopment of the Duck Reach Power Station to resurrect it as a generator of power and thus improve - and I know the member for Launceston is going to be interested to hear this - the water flow down the gorge, a continuing cause of argument and concern.
Mr Wing - Anything that will achieve that is worthwhile.
Mr FINCH - I am going to touch on something shortly you will be interested in.
Mr Wing - I'm interested in it all.
Mr FINCH - The city council's parks and recreation manager, Andrew Smith, takes a close interest in maintaining and improving the reserve. He says the recent redevelopment of the basin area with a new entrance, pathway, car park, inclinator, landscaping and the viewing deck and earlier refurbishing of the restaurant have all been very successful and they are all working well. Mr Smith adds that the operator of the basin chairlift has been granted a new 20-year licence and is planning improvements and significant investment in the chairlift which will serve the business well into the future.
The matter of water flow down the gorge, Madam President, which is sometimes somewhat less than the cataract. After a two-year review Hydro Tasmania announced an improvement in the base environmental flow last Thursday. When Hydro first obtained its licence of the Trevallyn Dam and the power station in 1955, the licence specified a base environmental flow of 0.43 cubic metres a second. It soon became obvious, Madam President, that this was woefully low. The Hydro voluntarily introduced a base flow of 1.5 cubic metres a second in 2003. Now, after its latest review, it has announced a flow of 2.5 cubic metres a second saying this is the best flow to preserve and protect flora and fauna including the passage of fish. It is a big improvement, more than five times that base flow specified in 1955. But to put that 2.5 into perspective, at the peak of a flood in 2009, which was not an entirely severe flood, the flow was estimated at 100 cubic metres a second.
Ms Forrest - You don't want it to flood, though, otherwise the tourists won't go?
Mr FINCH - No, you do not want it to flood all the time but it really certainly does draw people to the Cataract Gorge to watch water flowing down, but this will improve the look of the gorge for visitors. It may even help the silt problem. Dare I mention the silt problem?
Madam PRESIDENT - No, because your time is up, honourable member for Rosevears.
Mr FINCH - One Launceston alderman, Madam President, I am sure you will be interested to hear this, described it as a trickle.
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - But the suggestion that I want to make and I will probably save it for another special interest debate is the resurrection of the Duck Reach Power Station as a working mini-power station. Thank you for your patience.