Earlier this year we went to Tasmania; we spent most of our time in the city of Hobart but had a two week tour of some of the rest of the island. Although we were over a month in Hobart, we didn’t run out of things to do, and towards the end of our stay we realised there were still more places to visit, walks to take, sites to see! In our last few days we took a walk down the length of the Hobart Rivulet – well, the part that is accessible and not beneath the city! We very much enjoyed it and thought many other visitors and tourists would enjoy it to – a walk through Hobart’s history, and in a way, the history of the whole island.
I have been writing about the Rivulet, the small river which can become mighty torrent. It runs off kunanyi, Mount Wellington, which towers over the city. I wrote about its long history of association with people, from the mouheneener people who lived and walked by it for nearly ten thousand years, to the white British colonialists who arrived to use what they then called Van Diemen’s Land as a jail for their unwanted prisoners. I wrote next about how the Rivulet was misused by the new settlers – it powered their factories but it was used as a waste disposal for all the often toxic by-products, and it was used as a sewer, over five hundred toilets discharging directly into it. By 1912 action was taken and a proper sewerage system was put in place. Now the Rivulet, the parts which are not culverted beneath the city, provides a pleasant parkland for a riverside walk.
Here is the next part, I have repeated the past few lines of part 2 to put what I am writing here into context. If you notice any mistakes or errors, please do let me know!
There is a riverside walk which is delightful; we loved our amble along its course and we saw plenty of birds, on the water, on the grass, in the shrubs and trees; sadly we didn’t see any platypus which live in the Rivulet. Further up there is a wonderful range of Tasmanian creatures, devils, quolls, wombats and Bennett’s wallabies… we saw no sign of any of these!. We were not the only ones to enjoy the walk on that day in February; there was a constant stream of walkers, joggers, pram pushers, bike riders, people young and old – people who obviously lived in the area and visitors like us. Before white people came to this place, the first people would have followed this same path from the mountain to the river, going back generations.
I hope I have made this sound idyllic, a credit to the city, an insight into history, and the people who have lived and worked here. I hope I have encouraged you to wander along its banks as we did, should you be so fortunate to visit the city.
I hope also that you will now share my disbelief, horror, and outrage, when I mention that a programme of ‘tidying’ up has been going on which has included council workers spraying chemicals, including glyphosate, along the banks of the Rivulet, chemicals to kill weeds. It is important, of course it is to keep the banks clear – there have been terrible floods in the past – but using toxic sprays in this sensitive and important area? Risking the lives of the animals – birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals who live here, and risking the health of the people who enjoy the area – is that right? Is it ethical? Is it sensible or safe? I suggest the answer to these questions is no… A resounding no.
I am going to write to the city council asking if this is their policy, and if it is to consider changing it. It impacts not just on the local people and wild life – but it may impact directly on a burgeoning industry – tourism. There are various other ecological wars being fought in and around the beautiful state of Tasmania – the use of toxic weed killers and herbicides is not attractive to potential visitors! It’s very wrong, and it’s also very stupid.
© Lois Elsden
Here are links to parts 1 and 2: