Bob Brown Talks Rafting the Franklin River, Hiking the Oura Oura Reserve & Saving Tasmania's Forests

4 March 2013

Although the former Greens Leader Bob Brown has explored much of Tasmania, the place that he holds closest to his heart is the reserve where he lived for two decades.

"The spot that will always be special to me is the Oura Oura Reserve, where I lived for 20 years. It's just below the Great Western Tiers on the Liffey River. In March 2011 I gifted the 14-hectare property to Bush Heritage Australia, who now run the venue as a public space," said Dr Brown.

Bob Brown Bob Brown and his house in the Oura Oura Reserve

"I've been quoted as saying the, 'Reserve lies between the farms and the plateau wilderness, between the bitumen and nature's silence, between the late twentieth century and the most ancient world of nature.'"

As the owners and managers of the property, Bush Heritage Australia, an organisation that Dr Brown established in 1991, welcome visitors to the beautiful reserve - it's a perfect day trip from Launceston. Interestingly, this is one of 34 reserves covering over 947,000 hectares around the country managed by Bush Heritage Australia. Enthusiasts will enjoy strolling around the property and spotting the platypus that live in the nearby river. From the house, there's a walking track that leads up to Drys Bluff, a spectacular outcrop overlooking the grounds.

Oura Oura is also a treasure trove of native species who are under threat of extinction including Tasmanian devils, spotted-tailed quolls, the southern brown bandicoot, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and the white goshawk.

While the former Senator is most associated with Tasmania - he was elected to the Australian Senate for Tasmania in 1996 and sat in the Tasmanian Parliament for a decade between 1983 and 1993 - Dr Brown was born in Oberon in New South Wales and educated in Coffs Harbour and Sydney.

"I moved to Tasmania in 1972 for two main reasons - I wanted to see Lake Pedder before it was flooded by the dams and curiously I wanted to search for the elusive Tasmanian Tiger. Sadly, we now know that it's extinct," he said.

Lake Pedder Lake Pedder

Lake Pedder, which is now considered the country's largest freshwater lake, is located in the southwest of the Garden State. Shortly after Dr Brown arrived in Tasmania, the Hydro Electric Commission constructed three dams to generate additional hydro-electricity for the state; and in doing so flooded the area around Lake Pedder. Dr Brown later published a book on Lake Pedder in 1986.

Just north of Lake Pedder, is the Franklin River within the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, where Dr Brown has enjoyed many rafting expeditions. In 2012, an American expert labelled the Franklin River one of the world's top white-water adventure spots. According to the former Senator, the sights you see along the river are mesmerising including the rainforests and the ravines. It's a sumptuous remote wilderness that features many platypus and sea eagles.

At 125 kilometres, the river itself provides a great opportunity for extended rafting expeditions, usually lasting between 5 and 14 days. Most of the rapids are classed between III and IV difficulty and many guided expeditions pass Frenchman's Cap, which at 1446 metres holds snow almost year round. Dr Brown recommends enthusiasts who take a rafting trip also hike to the summit - which has superb panoramas of the national park.

Frenchman's Cap Frenchman's Cap

Since resigning from Parliament and stepping down as leader of The Greens, Dr Brown is continuing his environmental activism through the newly created Bob Brown Foundation - an organisation dedicated to raising money for environmental causes. The Foundation is committed to protecting Tasmania's tall forests and to help Hobart install a light rail network.

Through the Foundation's work, the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke announced in January this year the Government's proposal to extend the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by an additional 170,000 hectares; mostly around the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers and the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Parks. It is currently a nervous wait for the Foundation members, as the World Heritage Committee is scheduled to consider the proposal when they meet in Cambodia in June 2013.

If there's a parting word, Dr Brown said this, "Optimism.  It's worth its weight in gold."

Lyndon Barnett

Guided by curiosity and a sense of adventure, Lyndon travelled independently to 69 countries on six continents. As such, travel is Lyndon's only addiction. He enjoys with equal measure - scaling the peaks of a South American mountain at altitude, attending opera in a European Opera House or hunting for a bargain in an Asian market.