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Shed a tier for the blue tier

By David Leigh - posted Thursday, 10 March 2011

When Henry VIII chose to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, it caused a major event in Britishhistory; this occurred in 1538. Europeans had not discovered Tasmaniaand in fact it was not until the Dutch sailed into the waters off Western Australia, in the vesselde Eendracht and under the command of Dirk Hartogs, in 1616, that Australia was discovered, by people other than Aborigines. High on the Blue Tier, in a place of significance to Aboriginal people, a tiny seed fell 40 Metres to the forest floor and settled among the ferns and the leafy rich soil.

Over the next 104 years that tiny seedling grew towards the light and took its place among the giant, yet to be named, Northofagus Cunninghamii, otherwise known as Myrtle Beech. These trees, a relative of plants grown in the Triassic period, 200 million years ago, have travelled with the migrating landmass from Gondwanaland and survived the last ice age.

It was November 23rd, 1642, when Abel Tasman first sighted Tasmania. He would have barely glimpsed the special beauty of her magnificent forests as he sailed on to meet his December 13 appointment with New Zealand. A cursory glance enabled him to name it Van Diemen's Land, after his employer. The French took a mild interest in 1772 and the English followed a year later.


In 1799 Bass and Flinders flexed their collective muscles and took to the oars, rowing up the, yet to be named, Tamar River. However, it was not until 1803 that the British finally settled the place as a penal colony. They renamed the island Tasmania in 1856, just three years after transportation of convicts ceased and in 1871 huge deposits of tin were discovered on the west coast, giving Tasmania a healthy export business and a draw card for foreign migrants.

Tin was not the only mineral discovered in Tasmania and mining was not confined to the west coast. The Blue Tier was mined aggressively in the 1900's and much of her beautiful forest flora and fauna was lost. Later, it was declared a reserve and became a place of peace, tranquillity and escape for many people. A few of her giant trees remained and despite efforts by forestry, to move in and clearfell, protestors managed to save those magnificent specimens.

March 1st 2011 was a relatively warm day in North East Tasmania. The pastures had remained green throughout the summer and the hay harvest had been good. It was an altogether pleasant experience driving towards Weldborough and the Blue Tier. That experience was transformed in an instant, when a log truck passed, carrying just three logs. They were three giant sections of a single Northofagus Cunninghamii (Myrtle Beech) on its final passage through the land that had been home for 500 years. It was cut down at a time when flowering and seed production takes place, to create the next generation and when logging of High Conservation, Old Growth forest was about to finish.

The truck climbed slowly uphill, and it was almost as though this senior resident were being given a dignified funeral. That was short lived however and it raced, with an indecent haste, towards Bell bay and its imminent appointment with a Chinese sawmill. Not even the excuse of Tasmanian jobs could be or would be put forward in defence. The disgusting greed of the Gunns' board of directors and the stupidity of the Tasmanian State Government, was all that prevented that tree from ending its life in the forest, amongst its young and its ancestors.

No thought was given to the ecosystem service values, the stored carbon or the history that tree had lived through. It presided over Aboriginal life in the region; watched as Australia and Tasmania were discovered, saw federation, two world wars and even the onslaught of man-made climate change.

What a pity Abel Tasman did not take a different course on that fateful November day in 1642. What a pity the human race cannot see the value that tree and others like it apply to our lives and the lives of every living thing on Earth. At a time when the world's ecosystems are shutting down and when life, as we have known it, is changing forever for the worst; when the world map is about to undergo massive changes and millions of souls will be wiped from its face, that tree could have helped prolong life.


It is likely the truck driver is unaware or even cares or that the board of Gunns Timber Ltd check their bank accounts, to see if the money the tree owes them is paid. Even if it were not, they would not miss it but they will miss the tree's contribution to their lives and much sooner than they expect.

Do not feel sad for the tree, for it is gone. Feel sad for those of us who are left to see what happens next at the hands of big business and for the children, who will never know the forests and the life that we have known.

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About the Author

David Leigh is a film maker and novellist who currently lives in Tasmania.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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