Image for McKim checks out the Huon’s historic canal

State Greens leader Nick McKim rowed himself through the South Egg Island canal on Monday (February 15). His boat was among a fleet of three Grebes, built and owned by Franklin’s Living Boat Trust (LBT) and regularly used on the Huon and in the canal for training and pleasure.

Last week, LBT members and others resisting the idea of a Southern Water pipeline being laid along the northern bank of the canal, issued invitations to the state’s three political leaders to inspect the canal.

They are still hoping Labor’s David Bartlett and the Liberals’ Will Hodgman will find time during the state election campaign to experience the intriguing atmosphere of this historic man-made channel; and to appreciate the need to resist modern installations being built into it.

The canal, dredged in the 1880s as a short cut for vessels between Franklin and Cradoc, is now thought by some researchers to be Australia’s oldest. I am told that, previously, the nation’s oldest canal was across an island near the mouth of the Shoalhaven River, 160km south of Sydney; however, shifts in that river’s estuary had eliminated it. (Doubts are now being expressed about the veracity of reports that the Franklin-Cradoc canal was initially dug with convict labour in the 1830s. Anyone with information on this subject is invited to get in touch with Tasmanian Times.)

This month, Southern Water — in another piece of questionable Huon Valley Council processing — was given permission by the council, on a 7-2 vote, to lay its pipeline through the canal. It appears that, contrary to council rules, changes were made to Southern Water’s original development application that were not made available for public inspection and comment. This was a particularly surprising course for council to take considering it concerned such a highly contentious issue. It is understood there may be a community challenge to the legality of council’s decision to approve the application.

Southern Water representatives — at two “water plan” forums in Franklin earlier this year — indicated that their organisation’s preference would be to bury the pipeline along an already existing trench a few metres north of the canal. However, they said, it would need local community pressure on the responsible department to win permission for this to be done.

The protesters’ invitation to the three political leaders seems designed to bring pressure on DPIPWE to make an exception to its flora and fauna protection policy and allow the pipeline to be buried on the island.

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Captain McKim rows the lead boat through the South Egg Island canal.

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At the Cradoc end of the South Egg Island canal.

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LBT founder and retired historian John Young gives McKim a break from the oars.

Earlier stories on the Huon by Bob Hawkins:  HERE