The background

  • The privately owned Halls Island hut was built by the Walls Of Jerusalem National Park founder, Reg Hall. In this respect Halls Island holds the important story of the birth of a national park, and is the equivalent of Weindorfer’s cottage at Cradle Mountain. The protection and showcasing of this Tasmanian cultural story is a cornerstone of Halls Island project.
  • Halls Island has been under various private lease or licences since 1955, pre-dating World Heritage Listing and National Parks status. The hut itself has been privately owned since its construction, and is located within the national park in a similar fashion to the large number of shacks in other parks and reserves, including Rocky Cape, Central Plateau Conservation Area (19 Lagoons and Pillans areas), and Freycinet National Park. The owners pay rates and lease to the local council and Crown.

What we’re proposing

  • The typical Halls Island trip will be 4 days, 3 nights. Guests will arrive by a short (~11 minute) helicopter transfer to a landing site adjacent to Lake Malbena, giving guests an important interpretative overview of the cultural landscape, geology and flora of the area. This flight path has been carefully designed to minimise potential environmental and social impacts, including routing to the eastern boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, avoiding walking routes and high-value fishing waters, minimising flight times, and flying at an altitude of +1000m.
  • During their stay, guests will participate in cultural interpretation relating to the history of Halls Island and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, and low-impact activities including guided kayaking, flora and fauna interpretation, citizen-science research activities, bushwalking, and occasional fly fishing.
  • Additions to the existing infrastructure involve the installation of three minimalistic accommodation pods, and one communal pod, to form the Standing Camp (approximate infrastructure footprint of ~73m2). Three short boardwalks will also be used to rehabilitate and protect two on-island Sphagnum bog communities. There will be no off-island infrastructure.

Four years of critical, State and Federal Government assessment

  • The Halls Island proposal has undergone a four-year-long assessment process. The proposal fully meets the requirements of the 2016 TWWHA Management Plan which has been endorsed by the State and Federal Governments, and UNESCO. Halls Island has received conditional State approval through the Parks and Wildlife Service Reserve Activity Assessment, and has been declared ‘Not a Controlled Action’ after self-referral through the Federal Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation ACT (EPBC) assessment and two rounds of public consultation. This Federal assessment ensures that there are no significant impacts on matters of national significance including World Heritage Values, and threatened flora and fauna. Daniel and Simone Hackett are proud to have designed a small-scale, sensitive project that has met the rigorous requirements set by the Federal EPBC assessment, which has been in place for more than two decades.

Public access will be maintained

  • Generous public access arrangements will be maintained and continued; including increased public visitation levels and improved environmental management for guests to the privately-owned, historical hut. All environmental management costs including complete-capture toilet facilities for guests will be covered by the proponents at a significant public and environmental benefit.
  • Historically significant artefacts from Halls Island, Reg Hall’s family and the Halls Island Hut have been assessed, collated and donated to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery to form the basis of a new wilderness recreation exhibit in the near future. This donation is the single largest donation relating to Tasmanian wilderness recreation in the history of the museum.

Protecting Wilderness Values

  • Contrary to claims from extreme-green groups, Halls Island is not identified as ‘pristine wilderness’. In fact, Halls Island is rated as 12-14+ out of 20 for its wilderness values, based on the National Wilderness Inventory (NWI) rating. Halls Island is a location with existing substantial infrastructure, a long history of use, disturbance to the apparent naturalness, and a history of access that includes horse and sea plane. A component of the EPBC assessment of Halls Island was ensuring that there would be no significant impacts to Outstanding Universal Values / World Heritage Listed values of the area including wilderness characteristics.
  • Halls Island is about engaging visitors with the amazing listed values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and creating new advocates for Tasmania and conservation of the planet.

Helicopter Use

  • The helicopter flight path has been designed and assessed to ensure that no walking tracks, routes or high-value wilderness fisheries are overflown. The flight route adheres to the eastern boundary of the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and avoids overflying the gazetted ‘Wilderness Zone’ for any extended period.
  • Additional impact mitigation measures include flying at 3000ft altitude when possible, as opposed to the standard 500ft altitude commonly flown in the area.
  • The helicopter landing site is an area of naturally exposed bedrock, located in the Central Plateau Conservation Area (CPCA) to the east of The Walls Of Jerusalem. The site is not located in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, and does not feature a constructed landing pad.
  • Helicopter and aerial access have been highlighted and acknowledged as legitimate and existing activity in the original 1989 UNESCO endorsed Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) listing documents, the subsequent 1999 Management Plan, and the current management 2016 Management Plan.
  • Walking commercial groups into Lake Malbena is not possible, as the walking route would need to traverse up to 3km of Federally listed ‘Alpine Bogs and Fens’ (which are also World Heritage Listed as Outstanding Universal Values), and new tracks would be required – both of which are prohibited by State, Federal and UNESCO guidelines. A helicopter transfer allows minimal-impact access to the area, while avoiding track formation, erosion, loss of wilderness characteristics and impacts associated with walking tracks.
  • Following on from the successful 1989 extension of the TWWHA, the 1991 ‘Trout Fishery Management Plan, Western Lakes - Central Plateau: Tasmanian World Heritage Area’ (by Dr Robert Sloane & Greg French) was written as a managing document for the famed Western Lakes fishery. The authors recommended the following:
    ‘Confine the use of float-planes and helicopters to Pillans Lake and Lake Olive on a trial basis, subject to restricted operating permits controlled by PWH. No temporary, or permanent, landing or refuelling facilities should be permitted within the WHA in association with such operations.Helicopters and float-planes have been used to support research activities in this area in the past and helicopters have occasionally been used by trout fishing guides.Whilst there is little demand for aerial access at the present time, float-planes and helicopters provide a legitimate form of transport with minimal environmental impact, offering considerable commercial and tourism opportunities. Both forms of transport are widely used to access wilderness trout fishing waters in other countries, notably Canada, Alaska, South America and New Zealand. In New Zealand professional trout guides are given controlled aerial access to Fiordland WHA.

    The recommended lakes, Pillans and Olive, provide access to two contrasting environments within the Western Lakes. Whilst essentially ‘remote’ in nature, they are relatively easily accessed in the case of emergency.’

(While carrying out research for the document, the authors used the private Halls Island Hut as a base, with access by seaplane and private row boat).

The thin edge of the wedge?

  • Approximately 40% of Tasmania’s land mass is World Heritage Area (TWWHA). Under the current 2016 management plan, approximately 85% of the TWWHA is zoned as Wilderness Zone, a larger land mass than ever before, and managed to be free of commercial infrastructure or helicopter landings. Only ~15% of the TWWHA is available as potential locations for commercial infrastructure such as Halls Island.

Daniel & Simone Hackett
Custodians and Lessee’s, Halls Island