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Jefferys Track

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 27 August 2020

Tags: Roads

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight on an issue that is inflaming the hearts of the community in the northern part of the Huon Valley, particularly residents from Crabtree, Mountain River, Lucaston, Grove and Judbury. Really, everyone on the western side of the Huon Valley will be directly affected, and the southern side as well.

It is in relation to a feasibility study to seal Jefferys Track.

Jefferys Track is an existing road that runs from Crabtree up across the Wellington Range and down into Lachlan in the Derwent Valley.

This upgrade was mooted by an administrator, Adriana Taylor, when she was managing the Huon Valley Council in May 2017 - probably on behalf of local orchardists, to try to find a smoother, sealed route for orchard vehicles and, apparently, for tourists.

What we know is that this has come all of a sudden on the people in the Huon Valley. It was only on 24 July that the Huon Valley Council announced that the state Government was providing $90 000 to Deloitte to undertake a feasibility study.

When Deloitte issued a flyer to locals who had pre-registered for a consultation session, which is required registration online, which is wholly unsatisfactory because so many people in that area are not connected to the internet - it showed another whole road was proposed: an industry road, as it is called, through Judds Creek Road, which would then make a connection via White Timber Road across to the Plenty link.

This was a sudden and unexpected development, and it was shocking to people who live in rural Judds Creek Road, which has small farms. It is a very intact community, which certainly was not prepared for this proposal to come out of nowhere.

They are not impressed, and they are really not impressed with the consultation process being undertaken by Deloittes. It is almost impossible for people to connect with it and have a meaningful engagement, there is certainly no opportunity for a public discussion about it. They say registering has been a farce, emails bouncing back without people understanding whether they have been registered to be part of the community consultation process or not. I visited Jefferys Track last weekend; I have driven up there a long time ago but I went up in a four-wheel drive and I have to say it is one of the most treacherous and steepest routes I have ever driven in my life. I count myself as somebody who is quite capable of driving up and negotiating steep tracks. It has a cliff on one side and a huge drop off on the other side. The community has undertaken some desktop work and the gradient of Jefferys Track on the Crabtree end is at its maximum 42 per cent and the average is 15 per cent, staggering figures for any attempt to try to put a sealed road for tourists in two-wheel drives to travel along.

It would require a huge number of switchbacks for anything like caravans or camping trailers or the like to use it. It also goes up to incredible heights and it gets very cold up there. It gets snow and ice in winter. Let us not forget Vinces Saddle which has a height of some 376 metres and that gets snow and ice and is closed regularly in winter. So, we are looking at spending government money sealing a road over Jefferys Track that goes up to 714 metres with this incredible gradient. Much worse, however, is the road to White Timber Track which would join it and it goes up to 840 metres.

This is a ludicrous proposal. It is out of the ballpark and it is not surprising that the locals have been supported by four-wheel drivers who love this place because it is a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon and have a bit of fun negotiating a really difficult road. Nobody likes this proposal and it is interesting to ask why. Why are we not looking at the Plenty Link Road? For a long time, the Huon Valley and the Derwent Valley have wanted to have a road connection and, guess what? The federal government handed money to Forestry Tasmania in the 1990s and that money was put into funding the carving of the Plenty Link Road for forestry vehicles. It is a very satisfactory gradient of only 6.3 per cent on average, the maximum slope is 22.5 per cent. That is a road which is far more suitable to be upgraded and sealed. It is a road which makes a connection in the Derwent Valley end, it connects close to tourism opportunities in the Styx. It comes out near New Norfolk, and is a much more suitable road.

The whole area that this road sealing of the Jefferys Track would go through is replete with endangered species with a whole range of native animals. It goes through the top of Wellington Park. Down in Crabtree the residents have footage, they have cameras, they are recording and they have done this for a long time. One incredible clip of video footage of one den that has Tasmanian devils, quolls and wombats coming out of the same den. It is quite exciting to see.

The community will be speaking loudly against this and asking why isn't the $100 million going towards sealing the road to Cockle Creek? Why isn't is going towards sealing all the other roads in the Huon Valley?

Madam Speaker, the community wants some questions why this proposal is even being considered.