Geeveston is a small town in southern Tasmania roughly 62 kilometres from Hobart.
Forestry, farming and fruit-growing used to be the main occupations here but like many country towns Geeveston has had to cope with those industries shrinking to a fraction of their former size. Even in the few years that I’ve lived in the area I’ve seen apple orchards ripped out and packing sheds close down. Sometimes the orchardists put in new varieties of apple and some have gone into cherries but people who’ve lived here all their lives tell me that there were many, many more orchards years ago. There is even a special variety of apple named for the town, the Geeveston Fanny.
There is still a sawmill in Geeveston and while there are fewer people employed by or contractors for Forestry Tasmania around the Geeveston area the town still has strong links to the timber industry and holds a bi-annual Forest Festival in March. Local crafts-people produce fine timber furniture and woodcarving is popular. A feature of Geeveston’s streetscape is the carved wooden figures of local identities. Some of them are early settlers in the district like John Geeves (below), others are of people who lived in the town in more recent times. There are figures of the town’s doctor for many years, the chemist and policeman. Even Olympic Rower Simon Burgess has one standing proudly in the main street.
The quote below is from the introduction to the Geeveston and Port Huon Futures Study. It is 257 pages long. I haven’t read it all but the following sums up our town quite well I think.
At the invitation of Huon Valley Council, MMC Link has undertaken investigation, research andconsultation with stakeholders to fully assess the existing economic health of the Geevestonand Port Huon region. The purpose of doing so has been to identify commercial opportunitiesthat might attract investment and improve the longer term economic viability of the district.Distilling over 200 survey responses, 25 hours of community consultation and observation, and numerous independent submissions, we report as honestly as possible the sum of the community’s critical self-reflections and expressions of hope. To its advantage, we have found that the region has a highly regarded natural environment, excellent primary schooling, and a standard of health services (relative to the size of the district) that is largely appreciated. Importantly, though, Geeveston and Port Huon appear to be a community in the truest sense of the word. The community actively participates in its own betterment, is mostly welcoming, has high levels of happiness and trust, and promotes interactions across class and cultural divides. There is also a reasonable level of respect between the community and small business interests, at the local level.On the other hand, Geeveston and Port Huon is a difficult place to do business. It has insufficient access to skilled labour and markets, and stakeholders are exasperated with the regulatory environment. Indeed, relationships with government are strained, and the unresolved tensions over how to exploit the natural resources of the region are creating harmful levels of anxiety and stress.There is also a mass exodus of youth from the region underway. Its cause may be as simple as a lack of educational and employment opportunities; it may be attributable to a more complex frustration with the relative absence of social, sporting and cultural enrichment; or it may be that there are no peers left to connect with.That said, we have also gathered literally hundreds of ideas, innovations and visions for Geeveston and Port Huon. Any suggestion that the people of Geeveston and Port Huon somehow lack the capacity to take control of their own destiny is categorically rebutted by this overwhelming insight into their possible futures.
http://geevestongazette.com/ -Geeveston’s online newsletter