Legislative Council Tuesday 23 March, 2021
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, an electorate familiarisation tour provides an opportunity for members to showcase their electorates on a rotational basis as a means of informing other members of some of the industries, businesses, enterprises, opportunities and challenges that form part of that electorate.
The electorate of Murchison is geographically large and diverse, and therefore impossible to cover in a few days. Consequently, King Island, a very important part of my electorate, needed a separate visit, which is important for members to understand.
Last month, from 23 to 26 February, we toured King Island, and nine members were able to attend. Our site visits included the Renewable Energy Integration Project. As a remote island community, King Island is not connected to the mainland electricity supply. The electricity on the island was previously generated entirely from diesel, which is quite expensive and not good for the environment.
The King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project was an initiative of Hydro Tasmania with the assistance of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency; it is a hybrid off grid power system that supplies 65 per cent of the island's energy needs using renewable energy. The project has an innovative approach using new and existing technologies, including battery storage, with the aim of providing up to 100 per cent renewable energy when possible, while maintaining system stability and reliability.
We also visited the mixed species abattoir. This is a community-owned operation that is vital in the absence of any other major island facility for processing unshippable cattle, providing local beef and sheep to local customers. It also processes wallabies, which as members would be well aware, are a huge problem on the island. These are processed and sold both on and off the island.
We also had the privilege of visiting the redevelopment of the King Island District Hospital and Health Centre. The renovations were not quite complete, but we had a sneak preview through the new part of the building ahead of its official opening in the near future. We were informed of the health needs of locals, which in many ways are quite different to the rest of my electorate. We were told that King Islanders are generally healthier, stay in their homes longer, and have fewer instances of obesity and diabetes, for example.
We also visited a new distillery, the King Island Distillery. Heidi Weitjens uses native botanicals to create her ruby vodka and native gin in her bespoke copper stills, which she is very proud of. It was great to see members support the local business and bring some product home.
We also visited the King Island District High School and were met by the school leaders, who proudly showed us around their school. I commend them for their leadership and their efforts to make sure we were well informed about what their school offers.
We also visited Phoenix House, the community garden and the Men's Shed. All three of these are now co-located in a wonderful facility, a place where islanders come together to find support, belonging and purpose, to access services and to enjoy a range of activities, including working in the community garden. This is a credit to Sally Haneveer and her team, who have had to adapt significantly to support the community in different ways, particularly last year during COVID-19.
Of course, no visit to King Island is complete without a trip to King Island Dairy. Members were able to sample King Island cheeses and also purchase some to bring home, supporting the local community there.
Another King Island must-visit are the amazing golf courses. We visited the Cape Wickham Golf Links, which is world renowned. Some members had a chance to play a few holes, and lost balls doing so. It was a beautiful day - clear skies, warm, with no wind. Note that: there was no wind that day. The only distraction was the King Island march flies, which take the role of annoying insects to a whole another level.
Construction of the Cape Wickham course was completed in late 2015. Every hole on the course has an ocean view, which is extremely rare and something golfers would travel around the world to experience prior to COVID-19. Now we are seeing Australians take that opportunity.
We also visited the King Island Brewhouse, located in Pegarah, which is yet to open, but very soon will be, and will provide another reason to stay longer on King Island on your next visit. It is in a sensational location, looking out over rolling farmland. We did not get to taste the local brew. It was not quite ready, but that will be for another visit.
We also looked at other tourism opportunities and sampled the wonderful local produce. Members enjoyed a wild harvest restaurant degustation, and the following day, a four wheeldrive tour. This tour took in only a small part of the island, and I know members looked at the map and thought, 'Wow, is this the only part we have seen.'. It included access to private land showcasing sustainable farming in challenging terrain, the unique petrified forest, which is like being in a different world, and the site of the Cataraqui shipwreck - Australia's worst civil disaster.
The Cataraqui was wrecked on the west coast of King Island on 4 August 1845 with a loss of 400 lives, half of them under the age of 15. There were only nine survivors, who were lucky to be found by David Howie, who was living much further north, but had been attracted to the scene by the large amount of wreckage drifting around the sea. Only 342 bodies washed ashore, and were buried in four mass graves - one of the graves holding 200 people.
Before its official opening at the Cultural Centre, members were privileged to visit the Poor Souls exhibition, which recognised the Cataraqui as part of Ten Days on the Island. Last year was the 175th anniversary, but we could not hold events because of COVID 19. That was a particularly moving exhibition.
We also had the opportunity to meet King Island Council elected members - the mayor, general manager and a councillor who happened to be on the island at the time, and the King Island Shipping Group. This was very informative. Members were informed of the unique challenges of island life, and the significant contribution King Island makes to the state's economy.
Obviously, we understand the challenges include the cost of getting on and off the island. It is expensive and challenging. In these very isolated communities, a one-size-fits-all approach to legislative reform simply does not work in many areas such as planning and waste management. The cost of freight and access to health and education are additional challenges to those residents.
The tour was intended to give members a broad overview of the island. As I said, we only really scratched the surface of this great part of the world, within the three days we had.
I wish to personally thank all the business owners and staff of the premises we visited, such as the Hydro, golf courses, school and hospital, for being so willing to share their thoughts and experiences.
I particularly thank the King Island Council and its staff for assisting with the planning and organisation, including providing some driver support on the island. I particularly thank Helen Thomas for her input.
It was a great time. I think everyone enjoyed it and it is a great opportunity to showcase that really important part of my electorate.