Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Statements by Senators

Tasmania: Tourism

1:04 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to rise today to speak of a fantastic experience I had in my home state of Tasmania in the week of Easter this year: going mountain biking in the Blue Tier, which is in the north-east of Tasmania. I want to speak on why mountain biking is a success story for my state's economy. I have always wanted to go to the Blue Tier. There is an old town there called Derby. It is an old tin mining town and an old forestry town and it has not seen prosperity since 1946. It is the kind of town you used to drive through and never stop in. You would never stop, although there were three pubs in the town and plenty of beauty there if you wanted to look, but most people gave it a wide berth on their way to Pyengana or St Helens or somewhere like Bay of Fires on the east coast of Tasmania.

But Derby is on the map now because the Tasmanian government, with the help of funding from the federal government, has put in place a project that has been hugely successful in attracting people to the area. The economy, the diversification program, started in the early 2000s, but it was not until the Tasmania forest agreement was put in place, following the 2010 election, that we saw money flow—$100 million of federal funding—towards diversifying Tasmania's economy. One of the projects that was picked up by local communities—communities that did not have a future or felt they did not have a future—was putting in world-class mountain bike trails. Now there are a number of them around my home town of Launceston. Hollybank is one which Forestry Tasmania manages, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes mountain biking. But I have to say, as much as I have always gone to Hollybank and Trevallyn Reserve, which also have a number of world-class tracks on the outskirts of Launceston, the Blue Tier is in a class of its own. It is now officially on the world map.

Recently, we had the Enduro Challenge in the Blue Tier in Derby. Enduro is a series of 12 mountain bike races that occur all around the world, and Derby, the once forgotten town of Derby, was on the international map, up there with Whistler in Canada, with Colorado and with Rotorua in New Zealand. It meant that 2,000 people—riders and their crews, and nearly 100 journalists—descended on north-east Tasmania. I was lucky enough the week of Easter to go to the Blue Tier. My wife and I were lucky enough to be some of the first people to experience what has been called the Blue Derby Pods Ride, which is a high-end eco accommodation that has been built on an old tailings stand of an old mine. It is down on the river in the Blue Derby. It is three days and three nights of accommodation. You are shown the trails by experts and, if you are not a good rider, you can start from scratch. They provide all the gear and they show you how to ride properly and the tricks of the trade. By the third day, nearly everybody was taking on the professional trails and the berms and the magnificent flow that comes with some of these world-class trails. You get fed and you get looked after, and that is the kind of experience that adds value to an area that was once trashed by mining. It has regrown, and it is sad to say that the area was also earmarked for clear-fell forestry.

This is the reason I am talking about this today. This is not only a diversification of the economy; this is providing an alternative use for our forests in Tasmania. When you stay at the Blue Derby Pods Ride, when you are sitting there having a glass of wine after your hard day of riding, covered in bruises and mud and scratches, as I was, the owners—an absolutely fantastic young Tasmanian couple, Steve and Tara Howell—will tell you about how the forestry coupes, directly across from where you are sitting, were all earmarked for clear-fell. They have now managed to secure an agreement with the government that they will not be felled for at least 15 years. This is really important. It was not until the last day that we went to the Blue Tier ride, which is 25 kilometres of pure flow and an amazing experience through old-growth forests—you literally expect Gandalf to jump out from behind a tree nearly everywhere you go.

Senator Bernardi interjecting

There was some of the most stunning scenery you are ever likely to see, Senator Bernardi, and this area is now being showcased to so many riders. Let's talk about that. When these trails were set up, the local councils were hoping they might attract 5,000 riders to the north-east, to the Blue Tier and to Blue Derby. Since the Enduro Challenge, the area has been experienced by nearly 5,000 riders a month. They are expecting 50,000 riders to come to the area in the next 12 to 18 months. Growing that quickly and being a success story is going to present challenges, particularly if the world Enduro World Series occurs there again next year. These challenges need to be properly managed. That means consultation with the community to make sure that where bushwalkers are using trails there is no conflict between riders and walkers and of course taking care of refuse and sewage and these kinds of things.

Here is a once forgotten town that is now on the international map. Its beauty is on display for anyone who wants to go and see it, and the forest areas have been put to a different use to clear-felling. The trails are still under development. There is still potential to develop more trails. They have to be done carefully and with consultation with the community. But at the end of the day, this is the kind of future that Tasmania can stand up and say: 'We are doing anything as well as anyone else in the world. This is world class and this is what we have to offer.'

I asked the head of the Enduro World Series at a breakfast in Launceston what was different about Blue Derby and why they chose Blue Derby. The leader of the enduro challenge said two things. He said the rock formations in Blue Derby are some of the most unique on the world tour. There are stunning dolerite and granite rock formations. He then said that the other thing that is so unique about the Blue Derby was its amazing natural forests, native forests. That is what is different about it and that is what is bringing people to the area, not to mention the flow. Nirvana for mountain bikers is what is called flow. Flow is when you ride and you do not need to use your brakes, you hardly ever need to use your pedals and you get this amazing momentum. The trails are designed by professionals, many of them world-class riders themselves, to provide this experience. This is what mountain bike riders from all round the world are seeking.

The success story means that many of the businesses in the Blue Derby are new. As I said, there are three pubs there. There is the Weldborough pub, a 140-year-old up on the hill where the 25 kilometre Blue Derby ride terminates. You can go and get yourself a pint of locally made milk stout at the pub after your 25 kilometre ride, and get a bus back up to the top if you want to do it again. They are doing over 100 covers a day. They were lucky if they did 30 covers on a weekend before the mountain biking started. They are expecting 5,000 riders a month to go to the Blue Derby now, with 70 per cent expected to come from interstate. When they come to Tasmania, they disembark in Launceston, my home town, or they come over on the ferry. They book a night's accommodation, they eat in the local economy, they spend their money, and they go and tell their friends about their experience.

But it is not just about the riding; it is about how beautiful Tasmania is and the vision that the Greens have had for nearly 30 years for alternative business models, alternative futures for regional Tasmanian towns like Launceston and Hobart. There is so much potential if we think outside the box, if we actually look at different business models. I have already said here that the Tarkine in the north-west is the jewel in the crown that still has not been tapped. That area is still potentially going to be mined and logged. It is totally unprotected yet it is absolutely one of the most stunning places in the world, with enormous potential for more mountain bike trails, enormous potential for other forms of ecotourism, if the tourism industry had some certainty and was allowed to invest in that area. That is why the Greens have been really keen to see large parts of the Tarkine protected, as they should be. The Tarkine has already been given World Heritage value. In fact it was given an emergency listing by the Howard government. Senator Heffernan, who is not here today, was primarily responsible for that emergency listing. There is so much potential if we think outside of the box, play on our strengths, focus on our competitive advantages, and manage the environment carefully and sensitively with local communities.

Tasmania continues to be a world leader in areas where we know we have natural advantages. We have to be the best in the world if we are going to keep attracting people to the area. I love the Blue Derby Pods Ride. I recommend people go to Blue Derby, check it out, look at that kind of experience when they come to Tasmania, make sure they spend lots of money in our economy and tell their friends to come and visit.