'Wet and windy' proposed Tas iconic hike
Tasmania boasts two internationally renowned 'iconic' hikes but the proposed location for a third has drawn the ire of some bushwalkers and conservationists.
A 197-page feasibility study released earlier this month backed the case for a three-day walk with two overnight accommodation huts in the rugged Tyndall Range on the island's west coast.
However former Greens leader Bob Brown believes the track could damage sensitive alpine vegetation. He and others say the region's extensive wet weather make it an unwise option.
"The Tyndalls themselves have got a pristine, alpine quality about them. It's disappearing fast from the Tasmanian national park system and it needs protecting," Dr Brown told AAP.
"That's why we think this track is the wrong one because it's going to do the opposite."
The planned route runs from Lake Plimsoll along the lower slopes to the eastern side of the range to Lake Margaret hydro-electric station.
Parks Minister Jacquie Petrusma says the Tyndalls were chosen for their "extraordinary, spectacular and dramatic landscape". Significant public consultation, market testing and assessments indicate it will be successful.
Tasmania's west gets the brunt of wild Southern Ocean weather, with nearby Mount Read copping more than 3500mm of rain a year over 216 days.
The feasibility report suggests a five-to-six month walking season across spring, summer and autumn would be appropriate to capitalise on the most favourable conditions.
Yet it also identifies wet, cold and cloudy weather as a potential barrier to enjoying the experience.
Right-to-information documents obtained by the ABC indicate the walk would need to be fully booked across a six-month season to break even on operating and maintenance costs.
Jimmy Cordwell from Wilderness Society Tasmania has walked existing tracks, navigated primarily by seasoned hikers, in the area.
"It's pretty gnarly. You've got your roaring 40s that come across off the Southern Ocean. It's the first port of call for those winds hitting," he said.
"To make a dollar it needs 100 per cent (take up). When it's cold and wet and not great conditions ... it's not going to happen."
The walk would operate on a booking system with camping and hut accommodation, like the existing Three Capes and Overland Track 'iconic' walks.
Wilderness Guides Association president Ciara Smart says weather in the Tyndalls is "pretty much opposite" to the Three Capes in the southeast.
"(It's) not an appropriate area for beginner bushwalkers. It becomes a safety concern because beginner bushwalkers don't have appropriate gear," she said.
"We've seen quite a lot of that on the Overland Track over the past few years. We routinely see people turning up in jeans.
"(There'll be) no way to effectively dry out gear if they get three days of rain. It's unsafe, hyperthermia is a risk, and it's not enjoyable which may impact the economics of the project."
Market testing suggests between 2783 and 4829 visitors are very likely or likely to stay in roofed accommodation and between 934 and 2362 very likely or likely to camp per year.
The feasibility report says the walk can deliver a positive cost benefit for the state of 1.13 - 13 cents for every dollar spent - and 12.71 for the west coast in particular.
About 140 construction jobs will be created and 40 ongoing in maintenance and operations including tourism.
The report notes growing a diversified economy on Tasmania's mining-dominated west coast is "more important than ever".
Dr Brown, whose foundation proposed an "environmentally and scenically superior" track in a lower part of the Tyndalls, says the region must be included in the World Heritage Area.
"It would protect it from future mining and potentially other things like logging," he said.
"Could you imagine a future mine going into the range through which the track goes? It's opening the way to huge contention down the line."
Work is underway on planning, hut designs and approvals before the project faces assessment and further public feedback.
It if progresses, work would commence in late 2023 ahead of a 2029 opening.
The state government has doubled funding to $40 million. The walk was chosen ahead of 34 other locations.
"If the government is going to establish this track, it needs to have rangers there to look after the Tyndalls environment first and then facilitate the visitor experience," Dr Brown said.
"The people by and large going there have been very aware of how special it is and have treated it with great care.
"But we know from experience that where it suddenly becomes the place to go ... the results can be very damaging."
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