The Tasmanian Conservation Trust today called on the state government to immediately close the recently upgraded Cape Hauy Walking Track in Tasman National Park because it is being operated contrary to the Parks and Wildlife Service’s risk assessment and walker’s lives are being placed at increased risk.
The upgraded Cape Hauy Track, the first stage of the proposed Three Capes Track, was officially opened on 3 October 2012. The ‘Cape Hauy Visitor Risk Assessment’ was approved on 7 September 2012 by the Parks and Wildlife Service General Manager Peter Mooney - a copy is attached. The risk assessment was tabled with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in November 2012 and is a public document..
The ‘Cape Hauy Visitor Risk Assessment’ recommends a safety handrail at the end of the Cape Hauy Track (page 10) but a visit by the TCT Director on Saturday 2 March 2013 confirms this has not been installed – photographs are attached.
‘The PWS has operated the Cape Hauy Track for five months contrary to its own risk assessment and, based on that assessment, walkers are being put at greater risk of death,’ said TCT Director Peter McGlone.
‘The risk assessment says that installation of a handrail at the end of the track is a ‘minimum’ requirement, is ‘urgent’ and failure to do so will increase the risk that walkers ‘would die’.’
‘There are no excuses for putting walker’s lives at greater risk and the track should be closed until the safety barrier is installed’.
‘We can only guess that the reason for this failure to protect walkers is to save money, because the Three Capes Track is already grossly over budget, and to avoid criticism of the visual impacts of safety measures.’
‘This failure calls into doubt the PWS’s capacity to manage walker safety associated with the remainder of the Three Capes Track and raises the possibility of additional safety-related cost over-runs and unacceptable visual impacts’.
The ‘Cape Hauy Visitor Risk Assessment’ recommends:
- to ‘Install at a minimum a type C handrail at the end of the end of the track (site 6)’ (Page 10);
- that the risks associated with the viewing area at the end of the track is ‘Urgent and requires mitigation as soon as possible’ (page 9);
- The consequence of walkers falling over the 60 metres + high cliff is that they ‘would die’ (page 7) and installation of a handrail will reduce the probability of this happening (page 17);
- a likely incident at the end of the track would involve: ‘A large group sitting at the end of the track (Site 6) and a person close to the cliff edge gets up after sitting for some time – unsteady they trip over their pack or someone elses and unable to recover falls off the cliff’ (page 7).
‘The TCT is also concerned that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works may have been mislead regarding management of risks associated with the Cape Hauy Track and Three Capes Track generally,’ Mr McGlone continued.
In its 7 December 2012 report to parliament (available on the Parliament of Tasmania web site – copy attached) the Committee recommended on-going funding of the Three Capes Track ‘in accordance with the documentation submitted’ (page 30) but now it seems that a key document provided to the Committee, the ‘Cape Hauy Visitor Risk Assessment’, has not been implemented.
‘The PWS also gave assurances during the Committee’s hearings in relation to risk management which may have been misleading.’
The Committee’s report concluded that:
- ‘The Committee was however, particularly concerned that the new track will provide easy access for a much larger number of visitors to extremely dangerous cliff faces’ (page 29).
- in relation to the Cape Hauy Track, ‘Mr Mooney assured the Committee that the PWS were “extremely conscious” of the risks and that some of the people walking this track will be “people that may be on their first two-hour venture”.’ (page 29).
- ‘The committee accepts the assurances Mr Mooney has made in relation to both the risk assessment strategy and subsequent safety installations’ (page 30).
‘The TCT requests that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works reconvenes its investigation into the Three Capes Track and determines whether or not it was mislead by the PWS regarding safety management on the Cape Hauy Track and the Three Capes Track generally,’ Mr McGlone concluded.