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Cataract Gorge - Gorgeous Walks and Talks

[11.36 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I speak today about a special tourist destination on Launceston's doorstep -

Ms Rattray - Tamar River Cruises.

Ms ARMITAGE - Cataract Gorge, and in particular a series of talks that provide participants with an insight into the many features and the history surrounding this stunning Tasmanian icon.

Entitled 'Gorgeous Walks and Talks', the specially designed guided tours, which depart from the Basin Cottage within the gorge, are held on the first Wednesday of each month. They are hosted by 15 volunteers from the Launceston community who have a passion for, and extensive knowledge of, this area.

These volunteers impart to participants stories of significant events and people, the history of the gorge and its unique geological features and connections with the Aboriginal culture, as well as identifying to them the abundance of flora and fauna that can be found there.

The Gorgeous Walks and Talks tour includes a visit to the site of the first hydro-electric power station in Australia, the Duck Reach turbine-driven power station. The Launceston City Council originally commissioned the power station in 1893. This amazing feat of construction was completed in 1895, giving Launceston the distinction of being the first city south of the equator to be lit by electricity generated by water power.

Mr Valentine - Bright idea.

Ms ARMITAGE - It was the provider of electrical power to Launceston for 40 years in addition to running the municipal tramways, pumping water and wastewater services.

After the great flood of 1929 the power station was rebuilt and became the hydro-electric Trevallyn power scheme in 1955, over 25 years later. It was then suggested that the power station become a museum. In March 1957, it was offered to the Launceston City Council to avoid it falling into a state of disrepair, but it was not until some 20 years later that a national estate conservation study suggested that the building could be used as a museum.

In 1995, the centenary of its first opening, the power station was made weatherproof, the suspension bridge was restored and the building was reopened as a museum. The site is now an interpretation centre.

Another aspect of the built environment within the gorge is the Basin Cottage, previously named the First Basin Caretakers Cottage, which is situated on the western side of the gorge reserve with access from Basin Road.

Within the cottage you will find a pictorial history of the gorge reserve as well as some of the developments and events that have shaped Launceston's history. An exhibition space is also provided for use by artists or associated groups relevant to the gorge.

Cataract Gorge comprises first and second basins, large bowls with cliff surfaces that boast vertical and horizontal fractures housing natural waterfalls, pools and cascades. It is truly a beautiful place to visit.

The pathway along the cliff face was constructed in the 1890s, taking eight years to complete. It has views of the South Esk River. The Kings Bridge, which crosses the gorge, was floated into position in 1867.

The First Basin boasts walking trails through gardens, lookouts and the swimming pool with restaurant and café facilities. Spanning the gorge is a scenic chairlift built in 1972. It is 457 metres long. The central span at 308 metres is believed to be the longest single chairlift span in the world. Located in the First Basin near the café is the stone shelter where the Gorgeous Walk and Talk native plant tour begins. Many members may remember the famous basin concerts, when the stone shelter was used as a stage. The tour is a very popular annual spring walk conducted by Roy and Louise Skabo. Over 200 native species feature within the gorge. During the walk Roy and Louise identify many of these native species, as well as many of the species of fauna, including wallabies, potoroos, bandicoots, quolls, snakes and over 70 different species of birds, including nine that are endemic to Tasmania.

Other Gorgeous Walk and Talk tours include the study of the geographical attractions that make it one of the most unique landscapes in Australia, and the Mini Beasts of the Gorge tour, which features early evening walks. Tamar NRM Program Coordinator, Greg Lundstrum's Mini Beasts of the Gorge tour also includes an interactive hands-on session, using macroinvertebrates to assess river health and quality. He talks about where they like to hide and what they like to eat. The City of Launceston is not only fortunate to have such a unique asset, which is also a tourist mecca, but dedicated volunteer community members who are willing to extol its virtues to those who visit.

In conclusion I acknowledge these volunteers and the time and energy they put into educating the community and visitors about the gorge, a Tasmanian icon.

Mr Finch - And a special feature of the Rosevears electorate, thank you.

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