RDP: River

The Wild River

We have a lot of rivers in Tasmania, so many that much of our power comes from hydro-electric power plants.

Tungatinah Power Station

It was the proposed damming of a river, the Franklin, in the southwest of the state that led to the blockade of the river in the summer of 1982-83. It is quite an involved story starting further back when the Hydro-Electric Commission (HEC)  built a dam which caused the flooding of  Lake Pedder, a renowned beauty spot, in 1972.

When the state government of the day proposed to dam the Franklin River the newly formed Tasmanian Wilderness Society began their campaign to save it. It’s a long story that has more to do with politics than with rivers but it is interesting reading so I’ll include a link to an article by Professor Clive Hamilton who tells the story much better than I can.

Below is Peter Dombrovskis famous photo taken on the Franklin and used by the Tasmanian Wilderness Society to publicise the issue.

Rock island bend.jpg
By National Library of Australia nla.pic-an6631500-v, Fair use, Link

image canoe
Peter Dombrovskis’ Canoe-TMAG, Hobart

I do remember the blockade. We were still living in South Australia and every night the news would have stories sent from this tiny place, Strahan, that we had never heard of before then. Many celebrities, Australian and international including Sir Yehudi Menuhin, ­Barry Humphries, Eartha Kitt, Dick Smith, and ­David Bellamy took part in the blockade beside ordinary people from every state in Australia. David and I watched the news and cheered for the blockaders many of whom were arrested and when they refused to keep away from the river as part of their bail conditions were removed to jail in Hobart.

In the end, a Federal Labor government was elected in early 1983 and one of their first acts was to stop the dam from being built.

An old HEC logo in the visitor centre in Strahan

When we first visited Strahan many years later I learned at the visitor centre how the whole issue had divided families. To this day there are still people who believe that dam should have been built but the Franklin is still a wild river. I’ve never seen it but I’m happy knowing it is there. I have cruised on the Gordon River which flows into it. The point where the two rivers join was one of the proposed sites for the dam.

Gordon River, Tasmania

Further Reading:

https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2014/06/reflecting-on-the-conservation-of-the-franklin-river/