in the nature

Liffey’s Legacy

Few places have had as much of an influence on the global conservation movement with as little recognition as the Liffey Valley, located in Tasmania’s central north.

The area is wild yet worn from a rich and ancient human heritage that holds insights into the forces which have shaped landscapes across Australia for generations. It is a cultural place, commencing as an aboriginal meeting point that has since brought a continuum of people together who’ve shared conservation history, knowledge and stories to the masses.

Known to only few yet with a history that has impacted many, Oura Oura is a small bush block and cottage nestled beneath the Valley’s magnificent Dry’s Bluff. The humble home, and former residence of Bob Brown, has hosted meetings and helped harbour ideas that have compelled and some of the biggest conservation movements of our time.

Oura Oura is where the world’s first Green political party came into fruition, where The Wilderness Society found form, and was the meeting place for those behind the Franklin River Campaign. Hence, it was both commendable and fitting that when Bob Brown was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize following the Franklin River campaign that the prize money was used to make a deposit on a 100 hectare plot of old-growth forest nearby to Oura Oura that was destined for wood chipping.

The subsequent establishment of Liffey Forest Reserve in 1991 marks a watershed moment in the history of the Australian conservation movement, forming the country’s first private land conservation organisation, Bush Heritage Australia.

Oura Oura beneath Dry’s Bluff in September 2017. Photo: Bob Brown

Some 20 years later and timber giant Gunns announced it was selling off much of its forested lands in Tasmania, when Bob Brown noticed a block for sale in the Liffey Valley. Just 14 hectares and touching existing reserve land, the block was tattered but formed an important ecological link within the Liffey Valley reserve landscape.

“I took the unusual and desperate step of telephoning Gunns’ CEO Greg L’Estrange in Launceston…he was immediately interested in my suggestion that the block go to the Tasmanian Land Conservancy’s good hands – and so it did!” he recalls.

The now World Heritage listed TLC reserve rises steeply from the Liffey River and harbours beautiful mature blackwood trees scattered among the intact riparian vegetation. The remainder of the property contains a variety of regenerating eucalyptus species, with a mid-storey of large old silver wattle. The reserve also supports a wide variety of ferns, including 2-4-meter tall tree ferns along the creek lines.

A long history of use means the TLC’s Liffey Reserve needs time to regenerate naturally, and committed reserve managers and volunteers have worked hard to ensure the property’s weed species do not negatively impact on this process so it’s natural and cultural legacy may live on in perpetuity.

TLC’s Liffey Reserve. Photo: Chris Crerar