Conserve & Manage Why can’t wilderness just be sacred… LAKE MALBENA!

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    Greg French

    Most people know that I have acted as a guide for Daniel (the proponent of the Malbena development) and that I continue to admire much of what he has done to promote fly fishing in Tasmania. Because of this association I have been linked to the current Malbena proposal but I would like to state that this is not the case.

    The way I see it, the main problem with the current proposal is that it violates many of the major principals and much of the intent of the Tasmanian Wilderness Management Plan (I mean the legitimate plan, the one originally published in 1999 and properly reviewed at regular intervals since then).

    I was heavily involved with the drafting of the Management Plan (see Frog Call), and I know firsthand how traumatic the process was for stakeholders. The final document may not have been perfect, but it was legitimate: not only was it the result of countless thousands of hours of unpaid input by hundreds of users and stakeholder groups, it was something everyone eventually decided they could live with, albeit with reservations. Finalisation of a document of this magnitude when so many of the stakeholders are in vehement disagreement is no small achievement, and it is vital to the future of the WHA that the agreed intent of the document be respected. (The fact that the 1999 plan was adopted without major or widespread controversy is the biggest testament to its legitimacy.)

    The current push by the state government for development at all costs within the WHA has seen the original stakeholder-mandated Management Plan replaced with a partisan document that more or less gives the middle finger to legitimate public consultation and has caused widespread outrage. (The tourism component was supposed to have been submitted to UNESCO for approval in 2015, but even this legal requirement languishes.)

    Many stakeholders point to the use of helicopter access as the single biggest issue in Daniel’s proposal, and I see their point. The very idea of helicopter access was an anathema to virtually all stakeholders (except a couple of developers) in 1999, and nothing much has changed since then. The banning of helicopter access was one of the few things that everyone easily agreed to.

    More than the helicopter issue, however, I am concerned with the disregard current governments and developers have for due process. If management plans that have been agreed to by stakeholders and UNESCO can be unilaterally trashed on a whim, wilderness has no effective protection. All that is left is precedent, so we must work extra hard to make sure no bad precedents are set.

    Management plans need to be flexible and responsive to changes in community expectations. This is why the 1999 document mandated regular reviews, and why it contained mechanisms for testing stakeholder support for proposed changes. The current process stinks not because it promotes change, but because it does so unilaterally and without due process. Those of us who fought for wilderness protection did so for posterity, not so that the safeguards could tampered with every time there was change of state government.


    Greg French

    A bit more background:

    The island (Halls Island in Lake Malbena) was originally leased by Reg Hall, who named many of the features in the Walls of Jerusalem, in the mid-1950s. It was Reg’s enchanting nomenclature that led to the popularity of the Walls amongst walkers, and subsequently aided the creation of the national park. After Reg died the lease was maintained by his family, principally through his daughter. Ultimately, though, lease fees and council rates became exorbitant and cost prohibitive.

    I have always felt that the Malbena Hut is as historically significant as Weindorfer’s Waldheim ‘chalet’ in Cradle Mountain. The fear was that if the lease expired the PWS might remove the fireplace, making the hut uninhabitable, or dismantle the hut altogether.

    What could be done to change Daniel’s Malbena proposal to earn my support? It seems to me that small-scale commercial walking trips could be an effective way of covering the cost of hut preservation while introducing potential new advocates to the thrill of walking and fishing in the Tasmanian wilderness. The main thing is that the operation would have to remain true to the agreed intent (not necessarily the fine print) of the original stakeholder-supported Management Plan. It would have to be (essentially) a walk-in operation, with paid clients adhering to the same restrictions as other users, and not compromise public use of the existing hut. I would also have to be confident that it was going to remain a family-owned business, that it could not be on-sold to a multinational investor. As for helicopter access, the onus would be on the developer to muster overwhelming public support for the idea, or drop it altogether.

    Despite my deep reservations about the current Malbena proposal, I wish to highlight my full support for Daniel’s Lake Ina operation: these huts are located on private property – land which now has World Heritage protection but is owned by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy – and the clients walk in like everyone else. The location of the huts is sensitive, and the guiding operation in no way impedes public amenity. Furthermore, operations of this sort – on the fringes of the wilderness – play a vital role in introducing future advocates to wilderness fishing and bushwalking.

    I also encourage FlyLife readers not to downplay Daniel’s many other remarkable contributions to the fly fishing community.



    This was once part of the Riverfly website, now gone!
    Says a lot.



    Anyone interested to know more about the Halls Island project should visit this site: I’m told there is a second public comment period due soon, and those concerned should have their input on the record. I’ve also been assured there is no major tourism developer behind the project.
    Note that (on quick inspection) fishing is not one of the listed activities, which doesn’t surprise me as I see it as more of an ecotourism proposal and, in general, it is a tough part of the WL to catch fish in.



    I think Greg has raised a couple of points well worth considering in detail.
    First off is that chopper, why the Chopper? The motivation for its use in a remote area can only be to target another demographic of customers. The ones without the determination or skills to access the area, or perhaps just the time. These are also the clients with sufficient financial resources to enable them to use their wallets rather than their boots to gain access to a very unique place. These are also the ones willing to pay top dollar for guides and huts and they can be inclined to expect some preferential treatment along the way.
    Then there is that question of the business remaining a family operated enterprise. If the business model and cash returns are successful, then the proponents would be well within their rights to either introduce partners, shareholders or even sell the business outright at some time in the future, and our laws as they exist guarantee that right. It might not happen any time in the near future, but sooner or later it will surely come on the market in one fashion or another. So Greg’s point about the risk of bigger players becoming involved is both valid and worrisome.
    Thankfully, it seems there will be a chance for the public to have a better look at the details and make submissions. Why that didn’t happen wide out in the open in the first place is a whole different story.
    Regards and guarded….Jimmy



    Thanks Greg for the information and your thoughts on the matter. I totally agree with your views along with others who have commented.

    Helicopters have no place in wilderness areas – this will be a stake in the heart for the Western Lakes wilderness. It has been one precious thing that Tasmania has had over NZ. No helicopters and therefore, a true wilderness experience can be achieved.

    I was surprised and disappointed to hear that Daniel Hackett was the proponent of the proposal. I greatly admire his contributions to Tasmanian Fly Fishing. His (and Brad’s) book, ‘In Season’ is one of my favourites. However, I believe that by proceeding with this venture in the face of overwhelming concerns of what will potentially be lost, it shows a complete a lack of judgement or that dollars have corrupted values. I would appeal to Daniel to seriously reconsider going ahead with this proposal in its current form.

    It would be good to know more about the second public comment period.

    If there are any petitions or movements to stop the use of helicopters in the Western Lakes, please share them as I am very keen to get involved.



    It’s ironic that the proponent of the Lake Malbena fiasco complete with helicopter access previously stated on his website that his company would never use helicopter access or build huts in wilderness areas. Of course the very convenient copout is that the Liberal State Government have changed the zoning from Wilderness to Self Reliant Recreation. Seems hard to claim being self reliant if you need a chopper to get there!



    Thanks Greg for so articulately summing up the situation. This part of Greg’s discussion is at the heart of the matter and should give rise to our greatest concern. It is a no brainer that this would set a precedent and it would be incredibly naive to think otherwise……….

    ‘More than the helicopter issue, however, I am concerned with the disregard current governments and developers have for due process. If management plans that have been agreed to by stakeholders and UNESCO can be unilaterally trashed on a whim, wilderness has no effective protection. All that is left is precedent, so we must work extra hard to make sure no bad precedents are set.’ –



    Meanwhile on the other side of town……….
    Patagonia, with whom Riverfly1864 is associated, is actively promoting the creation of a new WHA in the Tarkine.
    It is meaningless if the Lake Malbena project is given legs.


    mitch aka 2 fish

    perhaps they should be introduced to each other instead of wearing each other like a well earned participation badge.

    you do know what the internet is, right?
    words and f all else.

    it took me over ten years to figure that out.

    take note,



    While reading about meeting between Trump and North Korean dictator I found this:
    ….helicopters anyone ?????


    mitch aka 2 fish

    put a dollar in the trump jar.



    This entire proposal and circumstances surrounding it appear to be particularly dire.

    It flies fair in the face of what most in this community and similar communities have strived for over many decades. It is disappointing to see Daniel involved, as the driver, to the extent he is.

    I understand that Daniel has been a major contributor to the ethos and activities of the flyfishing community (while also earning his living from it) for a considerable time. However, this one seems more than a little incongruous.

    There’s an old but valid adage in sport . . . ‘You’re only as good as your last game’.

    I hope, for the sake of Daniel, his family and his business, that this is not seen as his ‘last game’. That indeed, would be sad. The land of the ostracised is a lonely place.

    A saddened, Mitta


    mitch aka 2 fish

    and now give mitta that dollar.



    I most certainly stand to be corrected here, but it is beginning to look like a rather large and well organised bushwalking enterprise may already be involved here. There is a common thread and prior history becoming apparent to watchful eyes. This has happened before down here… at the Bay of Fires in Mnt. William National Park.
    This is mere speculation of course, which only highlights the lack of transparency. It may be that high end bushwalking rather than fishing is the target clientele. Never the less, there is still that chopper issue to consider, not to mention the precedent.

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