Jewel of the South-West Wilderness

By Tabatha Badger

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Wherever you wander through Tasmania of late, more and more ‘Restore Pedder’ stickers proudly occupy car bumpers; matching patches adorn canvas packs strewn in huts and campsites across the state- announcing the latest campaign to restore the jewel of the south-west wilderness – Lake Pedder.

Lake Pedder by David Neilson

A unique glacial outwash lake, 1000 feet above sea level, Pedder's tannin stained waters lapped the eastern shore in a distinctive herringbone pattern, here the iconic beach of fine quartz sand stretched one kilometre wide and three in length, contrasting the towering Frankland Range.

Declared a National Park in 1955, Lake Pedder was a bush walker's mecca in the heart of the rugged South-West. Pedder’s dunes provided adventurers shelter from prevailing westerly winds one day, the next as the weather eased it became a scenic paradise of mythical proportions.

In 1972 the construction of dams on the Huon and Serpentine Rivers saw Pedder flooded for the creation of a hydro storage impoundment.

A national icon of equivalent spiritual and geological significance as the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru was sacrificed for a trifle of power. 

“It will be 50 years in the summer of 2021-22 since the beautiful and globally renowned Lake Pedder slipped under the water of Hydro Tasmania’s Serpentine impoundment.” Christine Milne, former Greens Senator “It was the extreme expression of Hydro Industrialisation and it led to the emergence of a strong environmental consciousness and the world’s first Green party, the United Tasmania Group.”

“As Co Convenor of the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee I am excited by the opportunity to now reclaim Pedder, restore the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and make Tasmania a global icon in ecological stewardship.

Lake Pedder is not lost. By removing the dams, it can re-emerge. With the United Nations declaring 2021-30 the Decade of Ecological Restoration, what a demonstration of leadership to the world would it be for Tasmania to embark one of the largest ecological restorations on the planet!”

15,000 hectares would be restored when the Huon-Serpentine Impoundment is drained, unveiling the original Lake Pedder and surrounding ecosystem. Interred 15 meters below the impoundment waters Pedder’s iconic dunes and beach, miraculously, remain intact and covered by a fine layer of sediment that would soon wash away.

The impoundment provides 3.2% of Tasmania's total electricity demand (from all power sources). An equivalent renewable electricity production alternative could consist of just 50-60 wind turbines - a similar sized wind farm to that under construction at Castle Hill.

Restoring Lake Pedder is a courageous plan, but it is possible.

Save Lake Pedder, 22nd of January, 1971

Earlier this year successful fundraising enabled the Restoration Committee to employee restoration ecologist Dr. Anita Wild who will complete a preliminary scoping study. Along with a generous donation to begin legality investigations the Committee is on target to complete a Restoration Management Plan by 2021, at which time they strive to have a Government agreement for restoration in place also. 

“The wild landscapes of south-western Tasmania have a special place in my heart and the images of Lake Pedder I first saw as a teenager started this fascination for me; I was never fortunate enough to see the ‘real thing’.” Anita says, “Through my professional career as a restoration ecologist, I have studied many significant examples of restoration ecology in many places in Europe and heard how restoration can empower and benefit local communities and give a sense of purpose to the community as a whole. I now know we can now restore the beauty, ecological function and power of this place.”

Campaign Project Officer, Jess Robbins has been overseeing the rapid growth of community engagement and support for Restoring Pedder over the past 9 months. 

“The loss of the original Lake Pedder is one of Tasmanian folklore. To many it is a wound still rawly felt. To a younger generation, a myth almost forgotten. The flooding of this wild wonder of the world represents a moment in time that divided our community. It is a symbol of the battle of the false paradigm of “Jobs & Growth versus Environment.”

There is a deeper dimension to this latest campaign where humanity, faced with biodiversity, extinction and climate crisis must act on multiple fronts to secure a sustainable future on our planet. This depends on more than solely protecting the natural environment but an urgent global shift to restore and regenerate damaged lands and ecosystems.

“Pedder is a chance for us to not only restore this important landscape but to put in place a process of genuine engagement of the best advice of scientists, strategists, people with lived experience and diversity of opinions to make an economic, scientific and values-based decision on the way forward. It is a chance to look at how we can achieve a low emissions and renewable energy future in Tasmania while valuing and restoring nature and meeting our current and future societal needs. Pedder has always been far more than just a Lake. Let’s look to her to once again inspire restoration - of nature and leadership.”

Lake Pedder by Elspeth Vaughan

Wilderness adventurer, photographer and ardent Pedder supporter, Andy Szollosi echos the importance of humanity reconnecting with the natural world.

“In the midst of growing cities, it is essential for us to maintain our pristine natural areas. They are the reference points for what a well-balanced ecosystem looks like. They are also the places to which we can escape, to restore our own balance. The health of our natural areas is reflective of our own health. Whether we like it or not, our own existence is tied up to the biosphere in which we live. 

The reality of our environmental crisis is that it is no longer enough to preserve the diminishing areas that we have left; we must actively begin to restore our landscapes, including our cities. We have taken so much that we need to start giving back. We must restore balance on our planet … The restoration of Lake Pedder is not only possible, but necessary.”

You can show your support to Restore Pedder by donating to chuffed.org/project/restorepedder before 30 September!

Tabatha is a Tasmanian small business entrepreneur currently based on the idyllic East Coast. Any and every spare hour Tabatha spends venturing on solitary bushwalks, camera in hand attempting to capture the inspiring infinite beauty of wild Tasmania.

Feature image by Simon Bischoff and Luuk Veltkamp

 

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