News – Recent Events

19 December 2012 – Vale Helen Gee – In memory of the life and contribution of Helen Gee.

The Lake Pedder Restoration Committee is deeply saddened by the passing of one of its most active and committed members, Helen Gee, on 19 December 2012.

Helen was a dynamic inspiration to so many people and organisations over the past 45 years, beginning with the campaign to Save Lake Pedder from flooding – in 1967. Her achievements and influence within the Tasmanian conservation movement are too numerous to be counted.

Helen Gee was a Pedder activist through all this time, becoming the vibrant convener of Pedder 2000 Inc (the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee (LPRC). She created, edited and published the Committee's valuable magazine REFLECTIONS 1992 – 2004.

In 1998 Helen travelled to California in the United States to represent Pedder 2000 at the International Rivers Network conference on dam removal and de-commissioning. At that conference, her motion that Lake Pedder should be freed was accepted and passed to a UN Environmental Committee.

This visit inspired Helen to co-ordinate the Living Rivers Festival in Hobart in 2000, which brought the Gyoto Monks to Hobart for the first time, to bless Lake Pedder. Other associated workshops presented the concerns for the ailing Murray-Darling River system.

Helen was a founding member of The Wilderness Society, and served as a Councillor with the Australian Conservation Foundation. She was a member of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Consultative Committee (TWWHCC) in approx. 1987-1999 and a campaign officer for the Tasmanian National Parks Association, and for the South East Forest Protection Group.

Helen was an accomplished author, editor and co-editor of books on Tasmania's wild places and the need to conserve them:

Ill health forced Helen to withdraw from all her community activities in 2010. In November 2012, Helen was awarded with the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee Certificate of Acknowledgement for her long and impassioned service to the cause of the reclamation of Lake Pedder. The certificate was awarded as an expression of sincere appreciation for Helen's years of work towards the eventual restoration of the original lake.

Helen's death was noted in public statements by Cassy O'Connor, Tasmania's Minister for Community Development and Vica Bayley, Tasmanian Campaign Manager, The Wilderness Society – see Tasmanian Times.

16 March 2012 – Senator Bob Brown met with LPRC members at Hobart Town Hall to commemorate the foundation of the United Tasmania Group on 23 March 1972. The UTG was founded to save Lake Pedder and led to the formation of the Tasmanian Greens, the world's first "green" political party.

Veterans of the United Tasmania Group and LPRC members, from left, Geoff Parr, Patsy Jones, Margot and Rod Broadby, Geoff Holloway, and Bob Brown in Hobart Town Hall. Picture: Mathew Peter. Source: The Australian

The text of Matthew Denholm's article from The Australian newspaper 17 March 2012 follows:

FORTY years ago, at a rowdy public meeting at Hobart's Town Hall, a motion was put that would change the course of global political history.

Despite opposition from vocal hydroelectric workers, botanist Dick Jones successfully moved a motion to create what would later be acknowledged as the world's first green party.

The United Tasmania Group, the first political party to seek to restrict resource consumption and "unite man with nature", would 20 years later lead to the formation of the Tasmanian and Australian Greens.

But on March 23, 1972, the UTG's immediate concern was to save Lake Pedder – a stunning glacial lake in the heart of Tasmania's southwest wilderness – from flooding by a hydro scheme.

Today, as the surviving UTG founders and the Greens prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary, they are also renewing a push to have Lake Pedder restored to its former glory.

"It's a case of when," says Greens leader Bob Brown, who arrived in Tasmania one month after the UTG was formed and quickly joined after learning of the plan to flood Pedder and its quartzite beach.

Brown says decommissioning of dams is occurring worldwide. "For example, they are pulling out two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State, to reconstitute the fish runs, that are approximately the same power production as Pedder," he says.

Restoring Pedder by draining the hydro scheme's 20m of water and rehabilitating the original shoreline is the unfinished business of the green movement.

"It's coming," says Brown. "And when it does come, it's going to be a huge generator of interest by business, science and (the) hospitality (industry).

"This recovery of a glacial lake with its beach – 300m above sea level but which would extend from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Central railway station – would be quite a phenomenon."

Brown flew over the original 9sq km lake, with its beach 800m wide in summer and fringed by towering mountain ranges, in 1972, months before it disappeared under water.

The senator, who cut his political teeth as a UTG candidate for the Senate in 1975 and the Tasmanian parliament in 1976, is not alone in his quest.

The Lake Pedder Action Committee, in which former UTG members are prominent, points to a global trend to remove unwanted dams and to growing political support, with Tony Abbott on record as backing Pedder's restoration.

Divers have discovered the beach remains intact and covered by only a thin layer of sediment.

Often seen as the moment conservationists became environmentalists, the UTG formation was more a reflection of a global environmental awakening, Senator Brown says.

"This was the time when the Silent Spring had been written, the Club of Rome was about to hand down its report (The Limits to Growth), and there was a general sudden surge of alarm that humanity was living beyond its means," Brown says.

"And here in Tasmania, it was in your face. Tasmania had been the great bushwalking mecca for people from all over Australia and Lake Pedder was the heart of it. So the cavalier way it was about to be destroyed for a pittance of power set off the country's first really national conservation stoush and brought to recognition that there was this big environmental sentiment across Australia."

However, few at the meeting on March 23 believed history was in the making, or were even aware they were forming the world's first green party. "I didn't even think about that, it was months later that the Values Party was formed in New Zealand as a green party and then we became aware that we were the first," UTG founder Rod Broadby says.

The party came close to winning a seat in Tasmania's lower house at the 1972 state election, despite having only three weeks to campaign after its formation.

While it continued to run candidates in state and federal campaigns for some years, it faded as the Democrats became more prominent and the Brown-formed Tasmanian Wilderness Society led another anti-dam fight: the Franklin.

Green-tinged MPs became a permanent feature in the state House of Assembly from 1983, when Brown entered on a recount following the resignation of Democrat Norm Sanders.

By 1989, Brown had been joined by four other "green independents", following a campaign to stop the Wesley Vale pulp mill, and they formed an accord government with Labor.

Most of the UTG founders appear content that the Greens have stayed true to the original party and its manifesto, the New Ethic.

"It's just that they've got more influence now, the sort of thing we would have killed for," Mr Broadby says.

Patsy Jones, the widow of UTG founder Dick Jones, who died in 1986, reveals the couple, so influential in the birth of the Greens, were initially country conservatives. She says both were active in the Young Country Party in Queensland before 1970, when they moved to Tasmania.

"Dick's two interests – politics and ecology – came together when he found out about Lake Pedder and he saw that one way that the plans to flood the lake could be affected was through politics," Patsy Jones said.

Like other UTG founders, she sees restoration of the Pedder as unfinished business. "There are no economic reasons for keeping the lake flooded and a lot of economic and environmental potential in decommissioning it. Can you imagine the number of tourists who would be drawn to it? It was magic."

A Hydro Tasmania spokeswoman said Lake Pedder represented 1 per cent of storage capability, but the Pedder catchment gave 6 per cent of total hydro production.

Note: The LPRC disputes the figure of 6%, believing it to be lower. The LPRC notes that with reconfiguration of the power scheme, the Pedder catchment diverted from a smaller impoundment that no longer flooded Lake Pedder could generate 4.5% of total hydro production – a loss of only 1.5%.

2011 – Pedder Dreaming: Olegas Truchanas and a Lost Tasmanian Wilderness by Dr Natasha Cica, the Director of the Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society at the University of Tasmania, was launched nationally on 17 September at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. The book was launched by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. You can read the Governor-General's speech here and Dr Cica's speech here. For details of Dr Cica's book, click here.

The national launch followed events in Hobart with Sir Guy Green, Chair of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Ten Days on The Island arts Festival (speech here); in Launceston with Professor David Rich, the Provost of UTAS; and in Melbourne with political analyst George Megalogenis from The Australian.

Futher events were held in Sydney with broadcaster and commentator Rebecca Huntley, on Bruny Island with Dr Graham Bury, Mayor of Kingborough Council, in Burnie with Professor Janelle Allison, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Regional Development at the University of Tasmania and in Brisbane with Dr Julianne Schultz, editor of the Griffith REVIEW.

For Tasmanians, the name of Olegas Truchanas is synonymous with the loss of Lake Pedder. Slide shows of his haunting photographs of the lake before its inundation by the Hydro Electric Commission played to standing-room-only audiences in the late 1960s. Truchanas, for some time a clerk at the Hydro, was prevented by his employer from speaking out about the destruction of what he saw as one of the jewels of the Tasmanian landscape. Instead, he let his pictures speak for him. So powerful were the images that a campaign to save the lake sprang up; while it did not succeed, it formed the foundation of a robust environmental movement.

Olegas had spent many years exploring and photographing the wilds of Tasmania and was the first non-indigenous person to traverse many parts of the rugged interior of the island. The 1967 bushfires destroyed his home and with it virtually his entire collection of images. He set out to retrace his exploration and recording of the wilderness, but in 1972, while photographing the Gordon River as part of his mission to replace his lost slides, he was tragically drowned (Text courtesy of Tasmanian Times).

21 August – 31 October 2010 – At a Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) exhibition In the Balance in Sydney, the work of Olegas Truchanas featured in a newly digitised and remastered version of his legendary audio visual presentation on Lake Pedder. This presentation is justly famous, having done so much to raise awareness about this exquisite and precious Australian landscape in the years immediately before it was flooded.

June 2010 – Singer/songwriter Bruce Watson's recent song Lake Pedder Again released on his new CD Balance. Download Lake Pedder Again.

2009 – 2010 – Subsidised hydro electricity for energy intensive industry (and its implications for Lake Pedder restoration) attract plenty of debate on Tasmanian Times – October 2009 and March 2010

13-15 November 2009 – Bruce Watson, in Launceston for the launch of Helen Gee's latest book Tasmanian Songman Ronnie, performed his new song Lake Pedder Again at Launceston's bohemian venue Chalmers over the weekend 13–15 November. The David Neilson poster of Lake Pedder featured prominently in the backdrop, which linked the demise of the Tasmanian Aborigines, the end of convict transportation, federation, reconciliation and the environment, with Pedder being the great symbol for the transition to a restored society. The message being, If we can reclaim Pedder we can undo other great wrongs.

12 February 2009 – Event to celebrate publication of the book Pedder: The Story. The Paintings by Max Angus, at gleebooks, Sydney. Over 200 people attended this event at which Peter Thompson chaired a panel featuring Geoffrey Cousins, Tom Uren and Helen Gee in a discussion of Lake Pedder and other Tasmanian environmental struggles.

Peter Fagan (NSW Representative) spoke on behalf of the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee. For his speech, click here.

For details of the book click here. Many thanks to Fullers for their wholehearted support of the Max Angus book project.

2 November 2008 – Launch of Pedder: The Story. The Paintings by Max Angus at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart.

The keynote speaker was the Honourable William Cox AC, former Governor of Tasmania; for his speech, click here.

Courtney Wise spoke on behalf of Tasmania's youth. For Courtney's speech, click here. Author and artist Max Angus was present and also spoke.

25 September 2008 – Tasmanian premiere of Scott Millwood's documentary film "Whatever happened to Brenda Hean?" at the State Cinema Hobart.

The documentary tells of the Tiger Moth plane which was lost off Tasmania's East coast on its way to Canberra in 1972, with pilot Max Price and passenger Brenda Hean on board. An inexplicably brief official search off Tasmania's East Coast between Hobart and Flinders Island revealed no trace of the plane or its occupants. Mystery surrounding the disappearance was intensified by the discovery that the hangar in which the plane was kept had been broken into the night before the flight. The mystery of the crash and the total disappearance of the plane and its occupants has never been explained.

Purchase DVD of the documentary.

Click here to read the review in Hobart's daily newspaper The Mercury of 25/9/08.

Scott Millwood has also developed his research into the Brenda Hean mystery as a fascinating book.

3 August 2008 – Premiere of Whatever happened to Brenda Hean? at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

News – Events Archive

28 – 29 September 2007 – Extracts from an opera inspired by the life of Olegas Truchanas were performed at the Playhouse Theatre in Hobart. The libretto, written by Natasha Cica examines Olegas' life in Lithuania and Tasmania and his involvement in the campaign to save Lake Pedder. The music was composed by Constantine Koukias whose company IHOS Music Theatre & Opera produced the opera.

9 September 2007 – $100,000 reward offered by filmmaker Scott Millwood for information that solves the mystery of the disappearance of Brenda Hean and Max Price (see newspaper clippings about the disappearance of Max Price and Brenda Hean and the reward in Resources).

8 September 2007 – a Memorial Service for Brenda Hean and Max Price was held at 11 AM at Scots Church, Bathurst Street Hobart. The service marked 35 years since the disapperance of Max Price and Brenda Hean There were speeches by Senator Bob Brown and others – Order of Service.

October 2006 – Wildflower Spectacular featuring installation by the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee celebrating the famous Pedder beach and flora from the surrounds, Hobart City Hall

September 2006 – Geoff Parr's solo exhibition Persicope: a view from the original Lake Pedder Beach at Hobart's Carnegie Gallery. The exhibition covered 25 years of work on issues of conflict and conservation. It is mixed media with computer generated images, photos and light box installations.

25 August 2006 – Pedder Cards Released. Melva Truchanas and Bob Brown launched two greeting cards featuring previously unreleased images of Lake Pedder captured by Olegas Truchanas. The cards (see images below) are published as a tribute to Olega's memory and to his pioneering work in raising consciousness of Tasmania's threatened natural beauty. The cards also serve to promote awareness of the possibility of restoring Lake Pedder to its original state. The cards can be purchased from the Green Shop, Hobart – Phone (03) 6236 9334.

December 2004 – Reflections 10, the 10th edition of the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee newsletter Reflections was released. This was the final issue in this format, the Committee having since moved to a less formal newsletter format to keep members informed. Read Reflections 10.

December 2003 – The Pedder 2000 (Victorian Branch) AGM was held. It was decided that another walk along the old Pedder track from the Strathgordon Road to the north should be organised for 2004.

October 2003 – Australian Geographic No 72, Oct-Dec 2003 featured the story of the 30th anniversary commemorative walk (see below) and the placing of a time capsule onto the submerged shores of Lake Pedder. This article includes some superb photographs, including a view of Lake Pedder from the Frankland Ranges taken by Peter Dombrovskis.

2003 – Release of the documentary film Wildness written and directed by Scott Millwood, produced by Michael McMahon for Film Australia, which examines the legacy of Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis, two of Australia's greatest wilderness photographers. For more on the film click here.

Late 2002 – Dimensions on the ABC featured a documentary about Lake Pedder prepared for the 30th anniversary of the flooding of the lake.

April 2002 – The 30th anniversary of Pedder's flooding was commemorated in Tasmania. After an emotional ceremony at Maydena, young and young-at-heart Pedder supporters followed the original route into Lake Pedder with journalists and photographers. A time capsule containing 'messages to the future' was lowered into the waters of the Huon-Serpentine impoundment, awaiting rediscovery when the dam is drained. Included in these messages was that of botanist David Bellamy:

"Lake Pedder will rise again, pink dawn of the Green Renaissance."

May 2000 – Reflections of Pedder: a night of celebration was held in Melbourne. More than 300 people attended to raise more than $3000. Dr Geoff Mosley, Karen Alexander, Brian Walters and Rob Sitch shared thoughts of hope. An excellent slide and film presentation featured.

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