Water S.O.S Tasmania

Hook Creek

in the Shakespeare Hills near Rocky Cape
Charles and Claire Gilmour
As a little bit of background, our property was purchased 13 years ago, for the purpose of living a healthy, practical, mostly self sustaining lifestyle, incorporating growing our own food, having access to our own water supply and to develop a low impact, limited guest, eco tourism venture, focusing on health, (as the area was renowned for its clean air and water), and informative guided bushwalking tours, teaching people about the environment. We do trout fishing guided tours, in the central highlands, as well as an occasional local tour on our forests, which have incorporated the giant fresh water lobster with the inland fisheries and Todd Walsh. We are developing a small organic miniature cattle farm and supplement this as painters, decorators and landscapers.

In regards to our Water Catchment: It is represented in the Governments planning and management catchments document as part of catchment number 28 Black creek – Detention River. We are located on the 1:25000 Mawbanna 3646 Map as property no. 1742. (The creek and road are the opposite way around)

Our property is located in the Shakespeare Hills which is about 7km inland from the Bass highway at Rocky Cape. It is predominatly a blackwood and manfern wet sclerophyll rainforest, with some myrtle, sassafras, dogwood, leatherwood and a variety of ground ferns etc. With dry schellphy forest and button grass plains at higher elevations, including some of the rare banksia serrata. It used to be a 90inch rainfall area, though between climate change and Forestry’s impact in destroying the significant water attracting systems (ie the forest canopy, the creeks, the damp forest which helps create that magical mist in the valleys) over such a large area, the rainfall has declined in the last 2-3 years.

The Catchment due to be clearfelled next year (2008)
photo taken by Claire Gilmour

The class 2 creek that runs through our property is called Hook Creek. It is fed by literally hundreds of smaller feeder streams, (class 3 and 4 ) from the surrounding hills and valleys. It eventually runs into the Detention River. The backbone water supply for much of the local community.

Hook Creek was once considered for daming by Port Latta for their water supply as it’s a significant permanent running creek. Luckily it wasn’t, as it is home to a significant number of the very rare Blue Giant Fresh Water Lobster, the worlds largest crustacean. With the help of Todd Walsh from the Lobster Recovery Unit a small portion of state forest, though mainly button grass plain on the surrounding hills, was conceded and protected for the lobster habitat. It is also home to the healthy un-diseased platypus, the lamp ray, blackfish, a variety of galaxia, and the burrowing crayfish. The surrounding forest contains, healthy Tassie devils, spotted quolls, wombats, bandicoots, the grey goswak, the wedge tailed eagle, the azure kingfisher, the dusky, flame and pink robins and the beautiful fire tail, amongst many other species of wildlife.

There has been significant clearfelling and niten plantations established to the west of us, starting within 200 metres of our boundary. A number of class 4 streams used to run through this area and eventually ran into the lower reaches of Hook Creek. Most either don’t exist now or are so trashed little water gets out of the plantations and ends up in Hook Creek. Considering most of the plantations are between 2 and 7 years old, we believe their water consumption has also contributed significantly to the decline of runoff into the base of the catchment.

Last summer was very telling with Hook Creek drying up, (the first time known to do so, according to the old timers in the area). This started from the lower reaches (as feeder streams weren’t contributing to it anymore) and progressing up stream to our property which is the last private property on the creek. (No one actually lives or irrigates off Hook creek below or above us, only after it reaches Detention River) There was still water in tiny pools starting about halfway up our property, but the water table had dropped significantly. Besides running out of our own access to water (we will top up our water tank from the creek when there is little rain) for personal use, and as a water source in the event of a bushfire, and veggie garden, we where fearful of what had happened to the freshwater lobster. We didn’t find any dead, and thought they must have burrowed into the water table. On investigation we found a number had walked many many kilometers up into the headwaters of the catchment and hidden in sink holes. When we finally had some significant rain, and the creek started running again, the lobsters could be seen every evening making their way down the creek to their homes (they are very territorial). Clearly the headwaters are very important to the freshwater lobster in a drought or when the lower reaches have dried up. (From experts in the field we have talked to, this phenomenon has not been witnessed before, it is only out of our significant interest and living in close proximity to these fabulous creatures that we where able to witness this obviously life saving migration.)

Recently, without us being notified, Forestry put two roads, adding up to 9 km into the upper reaches of Hook Creek, coming of New Haven Road, which had previously only been accessible by trial bike, horse or foot. After discovering these roads and meeting with Forestry we have established they are intending on clearfelling nearly the entire catchment and headwaters of Hook Creek, totaling approx 6000 acres, (which includes what has already been clearfelled and converted in the Crayfish Creek catchment, with an adjoining 6000 acres to the west towards Black Creek in the process of being cleared. Although Forestry tried to appease us by saying, what hasn’t been clearfelled and put into plantation will now be planted to native species, the clearfelling and the subsequent massive regrowth of such a vast area will, we believe, have a significant impact on our water supply, especially over summer, and the habitat of the freshwater lobster, the platypus and the other native fish species. Todd Walsh recommended Hook Creek a couple of years ago as warranting the highest possible protection as a freshwater lobster habitat/breeding area. Pockets of forest in this catchment had only ever been selectively logged about 60 years ago.
Giant Blue Freshwater Crayfish
Giant Blue Fresh Water Crayfish in Hook Creek
photo taken by Claire Gilmour

Already inappropriate forestry practices in road construction have caused siltation in Hook and other creeks. The upper reaches of Hook creek have infact been declared an undisturbed river by the Australian Heritage Commission as it was so pristine. One of the very few in the N/W. Forestry’s road has had significant impact in the area, which we have declared is a breach to the Forests Practices Board. We have requested impact and hydrology information from Forestry Tas for a number of years on the creeks and streams in the area, to no avail. We have successfully proven one creek breach and had them fined, the FPA officer, disappeared soon after. In later protecting some class 3 and 4s near our western boundary, a Forest Practices Authority consultant, who has since left, infact had to argue with the forestry planning officer that these where considered class 3 and 4s. The forest planner wanted them to be called drainage depressions so they could still be logged. Successive FPA officers have been rather less instrumental in ensuring the Code of Practice is adhered to!

Ultimately if forestry is allowed continued access to this area and with their current practices, and based on our research, it will significantly impact on Hook Creek, as it has on Crayfish Creek and our ability to sustain ourselves and could well, especially considering climate change, and the growth of the extensive plantations in the area, affect Detention River and the sustainability and hence livelihoods of farms and families who rely on this catchment. Forestry is currently our, single biggest threat.

The Regional Forest Agreement and Forest Practices Code and the Forest Practices Authority and Board are not, we believe, adequately, ensuring a duty of care in such an important issue such as water and water catchments and the profound and long term effects of their destruction. We have made significant submissions to Forestry and the Forest Practices Authority under the Good Neighbor Charter and in regard to environmental protection of endangered species and the personal risks their practices pose us.

Simply put, neither we nor the aquatic animal species can survive here without our water supply.