Elections coming up and the pollies are promising us everything. I hear recently that Mr. Gutwein , the State treasurer has promised $7 million to upgrade roads on the East Coast the so-called Great Eastern Drive.
The platitudes quoted is that it will give tourists a more wholesome experience.
Yes it is true that roads need maintenance and upgrades do become necessary. But to equate that with a better tourist experience is misleading. I came to Tasmania 25 years ago and have lived on the East Coast ever since. We run a largely tourism oriented business at Eureka Farm and thus pay a lot of attention listening to what the tourists value most where possible make changes to our operation to reflect on those comments that apply to our business.
I think Politicians could do with a bit more of that listening experience. The visitors we see love our roads. They love the calmness that prevails, the lack of traffic, the absence of traffic lights and so on. Whether they come from the mainland or overseas these types of comments prevail. I should add that is the reason I love this place too.
The general consensus I get from Tourists visiting us is that they want to stay on and explore the area. What they do crave is things to do- icons to see. The east coast abounds with beautiful places to see. The weather is usually much better than the rest of the state but it is true that like so much of Tasmania it depends on fair weather for activities.
In my community however the problem is making these places obvious to visitors. Sure there are magnificent beaches, rocky headlands and an extended backdrop of state forests. Hardly anything overdeveloped and to my mind very much like the east coast of New South Wales and Victoria was fifty years ago. But there are few walking trails along the coast and its hinterland and the same applies for bicycles. Sure bicycles can go on the roads but that is a risky business and no one which parents are likely to support for their children. Many of our reserves and parks are also somewhat inaccessible. We have Winifred Curtis reserve nearby and it has some magnificent walks inside its boundaries but access to the public is not so easy from nearby communities.
What we need is coastal walks perhaps dual purpose in some places so that bikes can use them too. The coastal walks would connect to these parks and have regular entry points. The users would be able to spend a much larger time in the one area this way and I would imagine would more likely find interest with all members of the family. The entry points would enable small businesses to cater for guests in the way of accommodation and/or food. All thus activities would inevitably promote business activity. Living in the best place in the world I want this, I need this and I don’t think such changes would be difficult to implement.
This type of rationale is not original. Our counter parts in New Zealand and elsewhere have been doing this for years and successfully. We must be aware that experiences are what our visitors want to take home. If we don’t supply it they will go elsewhere. On a much smaller scale in our backyard we have seen what the mountain bike trails have done to Derby and as a result how Dorset Municipalities have extended their scope of activities.
The concept of spending your holidays driving everywhere is no longer what many people are seeking. The desire to do something is a growing need for many who often lead somewhat sedentary lives in their home lives. This need is in all of us all the time and doesn’t really matter whether we are on holidays here or live here. Tasmania’s east coast is the perfect venue for coastal walks and/or bike-rides.
Imagine getting on a bike and heading south from St. Helens. Around the Bay on the walking trail and then over the hill on a special path heading for Diana’s Basin. A short break there maybe a snack or play along the beach and then off to Beaumaris. Stop at Surfside for lunch or stay the night there or at one of the B&B’s conveniently located nearby. Then off to Scamander. A new track along the dunes when the walker/rider can see the beach and the coastal lagoons. Scamander is another good place for a stopover. That would be a good one day trip. Maybe the next day is a stopover day to explore the Scamander area. A ride up the river along the river’s edge to Upper Scamander area (again a new track along Parks & Wildlife reserve). Perhaps a little fishing too . Or a ride to Winifred Curtis Reserve again along a trail from Dune Street which will eventually run to Falmouth. These are just a few examples of what could be done to open up the area for visitors and all of us.
There is more to this than just catering for tourists. We the locals also need activities, involvement and a better appreciation of our environment. What Derby has done has made a tremendous difference to its community and many locals and other Tasmanians come there because of the bike trails on offering.
The outcome of not doing anything constructive is also evident in the dismal statistics of increasing depression amongst all age groups often resulting in the not discussed topic of suicide. Ann and I came to Tasmania twenty five years ago. Living in Tasmania was a great decision for which I have no regrets. Since we started Eureka Farm we have never been short of activities on the farm. But the hinterland with its millions of acres of untouched forests and going on coastal walks/rides is just not reachable. So visible, pristine, accepted by us locals but rarely entered by anyone.
Every year we get many visitors from overseas as well as interstate. Many of these interstate visitors think about moving here. The dilemma often faced if they do come is ensuring that their life is fulfilling. Jobs are scarce, the work can be seasonable, some industries such as forestry, fishing and agriculture are declining or changing rapidly. The same issues apply to those residents already living here. We need to address these matters. Whilst we can’t change some circumstances we can create activity based ventures.
In summary we need to show off our iconic coastline. We need to get off the highways, slow down and simply get outside and enjoy what Tasmania’s east coast has to offer. We can only do that if it’s accessible.
I would like to hear whether my remarks strike a note with you.