Top 10 Tasmanian heritage icons
In November 2008 the National Trust published a list of the top ten heritage icons of Tasmania. Their list included the Taste of Tasmania, a food festival held in Hobart in December every year.
The Taste, as it is affectionately known, purports to showcase the finest food and wine that Tasmania has to offer. An outing it is, an institution even, but a heritage icon, it is not.
Here is the top ten heritage icons of Tasmania list that the National Trust might have assembled if they had had more time to think it through properly.
Engineering, as much as the culture and ambitions of the early British settlers, has shaped Tasmania. And, in an age before power-driven machines, it was the sweat of convicts that created access and conveniences for the colony.
The bridge they built over the Coal River at Richmond is the oldest still in use in Australia. Today there is an alternative link between Hobart and Port Arthur, and Port Arthur continues for reasons much different to those of 1825. Moreover, our climate having been thoroughly modified, the Coal River seldom floods, so that the original imperative for the Richmond Bridge is hardly valid today. However, the bridge is an icon of that period. The British were here to stay.
The emblem of Tasmania is the Tasmanian Tiger. The pity is, it’s extinct. The early European settlers slaughtered the Tasmanian Tigers. They represented a threat to their sheep, their livelihood. Now, another threat – a deadly threat of disease – is confronting another unique local animal, the Tasmanian Devil.
This is a natural heritage that we ought to fight to protect, and it should not be only children that place the Tasmanian Devil at the start of a list of heritage icons.
Hydro Electric Scheme
Australian federal and state governments were trying (very trying). Yet, on this count, they failed. From the 1990s they used the GST billions not to build roads and schools and hospitals but to bloat their bureaucracies and buy themselves another term in office.
Where were the visionaries who conceived the great hydro-electric power schemes of the Snowy Mountains and of Tasmania? Hydro Tasmania is the inheritor, as are we all, of dozens of dams and power stations generating clean renewable energy that has kept the lives of Tasmanians free of coal dust and smoke stacks. I salute the foresight of a more responsible generation long gone.
These days everyone is green. Whether out to save the planet, or simply offended by the notion of ceaselessly dumping waste into the air and water, everyman is aware of the need to switch to sustainable energy sources.
The Roaring 40s wind farm at Woolnorth, on the north-west coast of Tasmania, is the largest in the southern hemisphere. There are others scattered around Tasmania too. Makes me proud. Tassie leads and others follow.
Of course we understand that base-load power is essential, and that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, but even if the wind farms were merely a symbol, and they surely are more than that, then it would signal that Tasmanians do care and Tasmanians are doing something.
The Design Centre, Launceston
On a forested island, even one that is being chipped away, you would have to celebrate the wonders of wood. Tasmania has some beauties – not just Huon Pine, although it is magnificent, but myrtle and sassafras and others. To add to the heritage, Tasmania has more than its fair share of talented designers and craftsmen. And showcasing this glory is The Design Centre of Tasmania, located on the edge of City Park in Launceston. Americans, Europeans and visitors from Asia applaud The Design Centre collection. And we should too, more than we do.
Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory
To build a factory so far from major markets would appear to make little sense, until you appreciate the benefit of being close to the source of your major ingredient. In this case, Cadbury’s was attracted to the quality milk produced on Tasmanian farms. The cool climate and cheap electricity were a bonus.
The Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory has 18 heritage-listed buildings on its site. It is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It is a major contributor to the Tasmanian economy. But, it is on my list of icons because it says something about the valuable resource we have in our rich fields and hard-working farmers.
This is no Appalachian Trail, measured in thousands of kilometres, with rattlesnakes and bears to contend with. The Overland Track, between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair, in the heart of Tasmania, is only 65 kilometres in length. Snakes you may encounter, but the real hardship comes from mosquitoes.
The Overland Track is on this list because it is known around the world, and because it is symbolic of the paradise that Tasmania is for lovers of wilderness and of bushwalking. In a sedentary age, when there is concern with obesity even among the young, we could do little better than encourage everyone to go bush from time to time.
Australian Maritime College
An island, with a seafaring tradition, has to recognise its dependance on those who navigate the oceans. The Australian Maritime College, with two campuses in northern Tasmania, is the Australian national institution for training sailors and conducting maritime research. The world recognises that this is a quality school, doing essential work. It is a symbol. It has to be on the list.
The National Trust did include Tasdance on their list. They could not have overlooked them.
Tasdance operates on pennies when great gobs of money are needed. Tasdance does innovative, risky things with contemporary dance. Tasdance is good at inspiring young artists and uncovering talent. Tasdance performs around the world and collects accolades. Of course Tasdance is on the list.
Queenstown, is a copper-mining community on the western side of Tasmania with a tough reputation. The mountainsides around Queenstown have been strip-mined and the forests laid waste. Hillsides were denuded first by cutting of timber for fuel to fire the smelters (that means get them hot enough to operate) and then by sulphur fumes from the old smelters (the mineral ores are high in sulphur content) The area has been dug up and exploited to the point of exhaustion, yet the town survives. In fact, it is slowly recovering. It provides an authentic experience which attracts tourists, hoping to capture a little of the magic of a pioneering age, and says something about Tasmanian resilience.
The largest contribution to the Tasmanian economy comes from minerals and mining. It’s not pretty work, but it’s necessary. It’s been done with brutal abandon in the past, and there is lots to do to do it better in the future.