Thursday 23 May 2013

Hansard of the Legislative Council




[11:05 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, an exceptional member of my electorate died in April and, in the months before he died, he was working on a concept that has since continued to gain momentum. It is a way of developing the attractions of Launceston's Cataract Gorge in a unique sporting and festival event. The development work is mushrooming and it seems that Bob McMahon's vision to make Launceston the adventure capital of Australia is closer to being realised with the announcement last week of a new multi-sport challenge in the Cataract Gorge. Bob McMahon, a former teacher of art and physical pursuits, became a noted rockclimber and instructor when he left Launceston College. In my office I have about five books of Bob's. He developed the courses for the Mark Webber challenges. He came to public attention by being one of the foremost opponents of the proposed pulp mill on the Tamar.

A former colleague and close friend of his, Peter Henning, now an olive grower living also in my electorate, said this of Bob McMahon: 'He tried to empower people to use their own strengths, to do what they wanted to do.' This included the limits of physical challenge, which fits perfectly with the concept of the Cataract Gorge Challenge. The Challenge is a pentathlon-type, multi‑sport event, which will feature the gorge's world-class rock climbing potential, with a ropes course across the gorge at high and low levels and also includes kayaking, cycling, mountain biking and running through the sometimes rough terrain of the gorge. Imagine, Mr President, such a physical challenge in a unique area, just 30 minutes' walk from the city of Launceston. I well remember many years ago the reaction of international competitors when we had the first world canoe slalom championships in Launceston. Those international competitors who were gathered in the gorge could not believe there was such a venue so close to a major city.

The organisers of the Challenge hope it will become an annual event that will attract not just local athletes but competitors from the mainland and overseas. The main organiser of the event, Ian Ferrier, ran various businesses connected with adventure tourism with Bob McMahon. Of course when you mention adventure tourism, Mr President, as you would well know, New Zealand's success in that field immediately comes to mind, as was recognised in Ian Ferrier's launching speech. He said:

New Zealand has done it for years. It is time we caught up and passed them. This event will bring people to Launceston. They will stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and visit our retail stores. They will have such a great time they will come back with their friends to see more.

The co-organiser of the Challenge, Cade Smith, suggested a hospitality perspective to the event. Ian Ferrier, again at the launch, said:

I ask you to picture the scene now, a mini-Festivale, with food and wine stalls, music and roaming entertainment. At various stages throughout the day, the competitors/gladiators will launch off into the surrounding Colosseum - that is, the Gorge - to complete the various challenges we have set up for them. This will include road biking, mountain biking, kayaking, running and ropes. The competitors then return to the start/finish before beginning the next leg, either as individuals competing in all five events or in a team situation.

At the completion of all the legs, there will be presentations of course and then the real socialising will begin. The inaugural Challenge is planned to take place on Sunday 27 October and it is certainly a daunting challenge for the organisers bringing together those five legs of the physical challenge with the carnival, which is the heart of the event. There has been strong support from the Launceston City Council and funding from Events Tasmania. The Festivale element should attract winemakers, brewers and food producers to fill the market stalls. As the media release of the launch says, it is our aim to entice a broad spectrum of the community to enjoy the unique dramatic beauty of the Cataract Gorge through sport, the arts and appreciation of local produce.

Mr President, if this concept works, and I am confident it will, we will have an annual event unique to Tasmania, featuring a spectacular venue close to the centre of Tasmania's second city. It demonstrates the elements of what we should be doing - building on Tasmania's unique characteristics rather than trying to copy those elsewhere. What a wonderful memorial it will be to Bob McMahon.