March 2018 | Sharon Webb
MEANDER VALLEY Council has allocated $125,000 for a feasibility study for a tourist road to Meander Falls in the face of some residents saying the project is doomed to failure.
Cllr Michael Kelly put the motion to the February council meeting, saying the State Government had spent $500,000 on new bridges in the area and a road would attract tourists to the falls in winter when there are high water flows.
His motion included writing to Tasmanian political parties seeking a financial contribution to match council’s commitment.
Local residents Kevin Knowles and Helen Hutchinson asked why the council would spend so much money when the land involved was World Heritage classified and therefore out of council’s control.
“The project is doomed to failure,” Meander resident Mr Knowles said.
“We should be working together as a community to develop small trails in the area to benefit us all.”
Ms Hutchinson from Western Creek said, as World Heritage the land is a nominated refuge for plants and animals.
“Are we prepared to dislodge plants, animals and rocks for people to be able to travel in a car?
“The World Heritage conditions won’t allow gravel to be brought from outside for a new road.
“Think about what you’re planning to do. Would we bulldoze St Paul’s Cathedral for a carpark?”
But Meander residents Wayne Johnston and James Boxhall spoke at the meeting to support the proposal, saying Meander Falls potentially could attract 30,000 visitors a year, like Liffey Falls.
“Meander Falls now has between 450 and 750 visitors a year because people just can’t get there,” Mr Johnston told councillors.
Mr Boxall asked why locals wouldn’t want 30,000 more visitors to the Meander area: “A road would create more opportunities for businesses and accommodation.”
Cllr Ian Mackenzie said road supporters wanted “to put Meander on the map and get some economic dollars into the area.”
Cllr Rodney Synfield went further, saying the road should be part of a larger project developing the whole Huntsman area – but eventually was the only councillor who abstained from voting on the motion.
But Cllr White questioned why the council would spend $125,000 when preliminary World Heritage consultation could render the whole project impossible.
She asked why wording of background to the motion suggested the proposal was “a done deal”: “And why has this been allowed to get to this stage without consulting the whole Meander community? It seems only those in favour of the project have been consulted.”
Saying the project had merit, Cllr Bob Richardson put a motion to write first to the World Heritage authority for its reaction to a tourist grade road but it was defeated.