Logging and the development of an ecotourism resort threaten Australia’s Recherche Bay, where one of the earliest known meetings between Tasmania’s Aboriginal people and European explorers took place.
According to historians, archaeologists and ethnologists, Recherche Bay has significant cultural and historical value. French expeditions landed there in 1792 and again in 1793, staying several weeks each time to study Aboriginal culture and language, botany and other subjects. Archeologists have already uncovered the remains of an observatory and garden, and they warn that other artifacts may be destroyed if development continues without excavation of the entire area.
Scientists say the area provides important habitat as well – Recherche Bay itself is relatively unspoiled, and a proposed logging access road to the bay would cut through a conservation site that hosts the last remaining population of the critically endangered swamp eyebright plant.
Australia’s government is currently considering the site for National Heritage listing, but that may not be enough to protect it. Environment Minister Ian Campbell said recently that listing the site might not halt all logging and development.
The Tasmanian government, developers and some local residents oppose listing the site. They say the proposed logging and development have been through strict planning processes and review, and will not harm archeological sites or the area’s environment.
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