Tears on handling of Western Tiers

What hurts the men of the Great Western Tiers most is that no one has asked them what should happen on the mountain range.

Two of the biggest decisions to do with the future of the high country in the 120 years or more that the men and their families have lived and worked in the shadow of the tiers have been made without their input.

First came the negotiation that was supposed to produce the intergovernmental agreement to determine the future of Tasmania's forestry industry.

''We've had no input to this even though socio-economic consultation was supposed to be one of the objectives,'' Meander-Liffey Resource Management Group member Rodney Stagg said last week.

Next came a new nomination for the Western Tiers to become Tasmania's latest World Heritage Area.

The nomination is already with World Heritage officials in Paris, France, for a decision after federal Environment Minister Tony Burke ticked off on the nomination at the end of January.

The Western Tiers men - those with the knowledge of the region handed down through seven or eight generations - are still waiting for someone to ask them if it is a good idea.

The men - the Johnstons and Staggs from the Meander side of the mountain and the Jordans from the Liffey end - have tried to make their voice heard.

They amalgamated the Meander and Liffey resource management groups to lobby for a say on behalf of those they describe as the silent majority from the area.

They have presented a submission to the Legislative Council committee into the Tasmanian forest agreement bill.

When asked, they talk of their fears for the bushfires that will rip through the high country when the fire breaks and access tracks for firefighting and rescue equipment are closed in line with World Heritage Listing - and destroy it.

They ask who has produced the management plan for the area that would include fire protection and emergency access whatever it is zoned?

They question whether bush that has been logged since settlement is appropriate to be protected as pristine forest in a World Heritage Area - although they take it as a compliment for their good forest management practices that it looks like it to some.

Liffey man Ray Jordan says that bush described as high conservation value forest in the intergovernmental agreement has been logged three times in his lifetime.

Then the men start to tell the stories of the mountain country that has always been home.

''Since settlement there has been a history of sawmilling and forest harvesting in the Western Tiers by families who are still living and working in the local communities,'' Mr Stagg said.

''These families not only created a productive community but they grew to love the land of the tiers.

''They have cared for it and passed that stewardship on to succeeding generations.''

The group has been told that under World Heritage Listing there would only be two access points to the tiers plateau for an area that would stretch from Lake Rowallan to Tunbridge Tier.

They presume that means the tracks like those maintained by the Jordan family for several generations would be closed. 

They include one that provided access to the plateau for emergency workers in the case of an accident on the mountain and firebreaks. 

''There used to be seven like it - three at Meander and four here (on the Liffey side) that the families maintained,'' Mr Jordan said.

Then there are the walking tracks of the Western Tiers that were created more than 100 years ago by families such as the Howells, Lees, the Boxalls, Parsons, the Staggs and the Johnstons and continue to give access to the plateau, Mr Stagg said.

''Today they are managed by descendants of those families at a cost to no one,'' he said.

Graham Johnston talks about the changes on the mountain and worries that he is not handing the land on to the next generations in good condition. He has been walking the tracks of the Western Tiers all his life.

Already, since there has been a change in the government agency caring for the region, there has been little ongoing management, he said.

''For the first 10 years you don't see anything very different but when you go back to these places now, the long, white grass that the stock ate and which is first-class feed for the wombats and kangaroos is all dead,'' he said.

Wayne, Graham and Neil Johnston, of Meander, Rodney Stagg, of Perth, and Ray Jordan, of Liffey, on the track behind the Longford Baptist Camp at Liffey.  Pictures: SCOTT GELSTON

Wayne, Graham and Neil Johnston, of Meander, Rodney Stagg, of Perth, and Ray Jordan, of Liffey, on the track behind the Longford Baptist Camp at Liffey. Pictures: SCOTT GELSTON


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