Thursday 27 November 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Redevelopment Proposals for the Cataract Gorge

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, Launceston's famous Cataract Gorge in my electorate of Rosevears is to have a makeover. The popular and rugged part of the South Esk River, just a short walk from central Launceston, has evolved as a venue for local people and visitors since the 19 century. To quote from the Launceston City Council website:

The Cataract Gorge Reserve covering 192 hectares, and just 15 minutes walk from the city centre, is home to a large diversity of plants and animals that live in the bushland and waterways that make up this magnificent treat to locals and tourists alike. The Cataract Gorge Reserve is the heartbeat of Launceston and central to its lifestyle and sense of community.

There is a pathway known as the Kings Bridge Cataract Walk built by volunteers in the 1890s. It runs along the north bank of the gorge and is the main access from central Launceston by foot. It was very popular right from the start, even though there was an entrance charge. There has been a lot of development since those early days and now there is a joint initiative between the Launceston City Council, the State Government and Tourism Northern Tasmania focusing on the Cataract Gorge, its surrounding reserve and the Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area.

The council says it is looking to rejuvenate the gorge to bring it closer to the community and make it more appealing to tourists. That is a good move. Over the years, as the member for Windermere and the member for Launceston might understand, we have diminished a bit with the gorge as that major tourist attraction in the north so this rejuvenation is going to be very timely indeed to bring back the focus on the gorge.

It is a long-term project; it is going to take place over 15 years at an initial cost of $5 million. The council has been very careful to consult widely. It recently organised a threeday consultation for about 50 people representing northern businesses. The mayor, Albert van Zetten, has been very pleased with the public response so far. He says the makeover will include upgrades for existing infrastructure; interpreting the cultural heritage and the past; better integration with the city and, between the two reserves, a theme of illumination, which includes different kinds of lighting, access lighting and identification of the area's special features; accessibility both for our visitors to find the reserves and within the reserves to cater for varying mobility and transport needs; improving the water quality; and the potential for staging future events. Details are expected to be publicised in February or March, including official designs and the final report on ideas so far.

Our gorge received a mention in Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech to the joint sitting of Federal Parliament. He is worth quoting:

Before I embarked on my visit to Australia, my wife and I received letters from 16 pupils of Tasmania's Scotch Oakburn College Junior School. They are at the age of 10 or 11, and they each sent me a letter. In their letters they described Tasmania's unique products and beautiful scenery, and they wrote their letters in Chinese. They mentioned in particular the Tahune AirWalk and the Cataract Gorge, and, of course, the Tasmanian devil. They also wrote in their letters that if I go to the gorge I could come across beautiful peacock feathers. Their words have filled me with curiosity. I look forward to my visit to Tasmania tomorrow and meeting these children. I am sure that Tasmania will give me wonderful memories and my visit there will broaden my understanding of your great country.

That is from Federal Parliament Hansard. Xi met the Scotch Oakburn students at Government House - a great moment for them and a great moment for us. Unfortunately, he did not make it to the gorge but perhaps when the proposed redevelopment is finished in 2030, another Chinese president might be able to collect some peacock feathers.