Hands Off Our Gorge is a group of locals who love the Launceston Cataract Gorge as it is.
Our membership and support have grown since the Launceston Skyway concept was presented by the Larter Group earlier this year.
We are very concerned that the project will permanently alter the very essence of this special place.
The Launceston Interim Planning Scheme (2015) obliges council to "(a) protect the Cataract Gorge Reserve from incremental loss and degradation of its character and values; and (b) ensure that development ... minimise the impact on the natural, historic, cultural, heritage, landscape and scenic character and values of the Cataract Gorge Reserve".
But what are the character and values of the Gorge?
Firstly, we must acknowledge that it was and remains a significant site for the First Tasmanians. Living links to Aboriginal traditions are evident in the Gorge (for example, the native flag iris, used for basket-weaving).
While we make no claims on Aboriginal culture, it is easy to imagine (and many visitors comment on) the Gorge as a spiritual place.
The Gorge has unique landscape characteristics and values. With the river and basin as its centrepiece and encased in naturally vegetated hills, it evokes feelings of both freedom and safety.
This landscape links directly to the meeting place of Launceston's three rivers via Kings Bridge and extends beyond the historic Duck Reach Power Station.
It is a natural and dramatic landscape that intimately connects Launceston's history and heritage. It provides awesome and intimate play spaces along the river.
The Gorge has world-class scenic character. Looking up the ravine from Kings Bridge is a favourite view for locals and tourists, as is the view across the basin toward and the Alexandra suspension bridge.
And let's not take for granted the skyline view that swoops across those undulating hills.
The aesthetic appeal of the Cataract Gorge has been captured by painters, sketchers and photographers since the early 19th Century and continues to inspire the City of Launceston's Artists in Residence.
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Another unique characteristic of the Gorge is cultural; it has been loved for generations by the people of Launceston. We meet there, are active there, we play there, we restore ourselves there, and take our friends and family there. We love it as it is (as do our visitors).
We are proud to be its custodians.
The Gorge's heritage values are recognised as being of state and national significance. It's listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register and Register of National Estate.
A The Examiner article, June 14, 1943, reports, "The acquisition of 170.5 acres of land adjoining the present Cliffgrounds at First Basin, thanks to the gift to the City Council of the purchase money, will mean that the whole of the First Basin area will be permanently protected from encroachment".
We value its beauty. We are (consciously or subconsciously) nurtured by the beauty and when we visit the Gorge we settle into a leisurely experience; a stroll along the paths, marvelling at a peacock's tail on display, soaking in the views and colours.
As it is, thousands of visitors each year take time to wander around this predominantly natural setting.
The Gorge is valued because it is welcoming and invites social interaction, which in turn builds community.
Whether it's gathering for a picnic or bbq, a swim at the end of a hot summer's day, a walk and talk with a friend, the Gorge is naturally enticing.
A critical mass of gatherings in Summer facilitates impromptu socialising. For generations, it has been a favourite local hangout for Launceston's teenagers.
We value the Gorge as a space that provides equal access for all.
The Gorge is good for our health. It encourages everyday physical activity. We walk and run there, we detour through it on our way to work or home. It is a space used by fitness groups because of its varied terrain and motivating environment.
In the summer teenagers are enticed to rock-hop upstream or down, seeking out play that is exciting both for its physicality and social opportunities.
The Gorge also supports our mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Many locals use the Gorge for mental restoration.
It is well-documented that being physically active, spending time in nature and having social supports, work to support good mental health.
In the Gorge, all three are freely available.
The Gorge, therefore, supports our community's physical and mental wellbeing.
When we map out all the characteristics and values of the Gorge, it is difficult to see how the Launceston Skyway proposal, with its imposing station (about 300 square metres footprint), 13 towers and 24 gondolas/cable cars encircling overhead can claim minimal impact on these.
HOOG asks that the council very seriously consider what we stand to lose if this proposal goes to plan.
- Lu McGinniss, Jo Saunders and Anne Layton-Bennett, Hands Off Our Gorge members.