Tasmania is a magnet for rural tourism. Why? Is it because of the scenery? It certainly isn’t because of the facilities or large resorts. Is it because of the non-existent raging, city night life or sprawling shopping malls?
I rent out a room in my house on Airbnb and I meet the tourists who read my profile on the website and choose to come and stay in my old cottage on an organic, rural 1 acre in the town of Cygnet. I hear what they say when asked why they come to Tasmania. I see the streets of Cygnet literally full of tourist vehicles all year round and I have a stall at the Cygnet Market which provides most of my income because, even for a town of 1,000 locals, this market is what people want to experience.
Everyone with excess produce in their gardens offers it to the girls at The Lotus Eaters cafe who cook the most amazing stuff, using food grown within a very small circle of the cafe. It is always full of people, all year round. In winter you see people in their coats and scarves at the outdoor tables, hands around hot cups of coffee and their famous chai, because this is what they come here for, not to sit in the air conditioned environment of a shopping centre or resort. There is no view from this main street cafe, but there is more atmosphere and warmth and genuine soul than any view can give.
Then on the other side, I listen to the radio and hear how “experts” say that Tasmania needs to catch up with the mainland of Australia and provide more facilities and exciting things for tourists to do and it makes me want to scream! They say we need to build more roads, big hotels and a cable car to the top of Mt. Wellington. This is segregation; dividing tourism off from the everyday life of ordinary people and is expensive and unsustainable in a tiny, cash-strapped state.
I hear about Tasmanian agriculture and how so many fruit orchards have been ripped out or fruit left to rot because of cheap imports. I see that the major supermarkets sell apples from China, when not that long ago, Tasmania was called the Apple Isle and exported all over the world. And yet, local fruit growers have set up roadside stalls and they are patronised by locals and tourists in huge numbers as are all farmgate operations. Every road around here has properties with small groves of mixed orchards, wood lots, a few animals and a vegetable garden. Many are new or have new owners who can see the wood and the trees! And this week has been Agfest, a rural show of mammoth proportions, visited by anyone and everyone who can get to it, from all over Australia.
The experts are segregating, not integrating. They look at figures for tourist spending in other places and think that this is relevant to Tasmania. They don’t spend a couple of weeks as a tourist in Tasmania and actually see for themselves. Tasmania is unlike most of the rest of Australia in that it is decentralised and people live in nooks and crannies all over it. The “cities” are small; the capital and biggest, Hobart, is only 250,000. It is more like south west France, with very rural villages every few kilometres. And, like rural France, that is exactly what people come to see; rural, everyday life supplying excellent quality, local goods and services in rustic villages and markets.
Everyone wants to go France; where every facet if life is integrated; ancient buildings are not museums, they are loved and lived in. Markets abound with local food and the French people themselves would not buy food grown elsewhere if it was grown locally. Rooms on farms and in rural homes are on every visitor’s list of accommodation. Every tourist to France goes to the markets and villages to see the real French way of life; and so it could be in Tasmania.
Integration means business is life; farmland has tourism in its agenda; farmers integrate ideas with neighbours, instead of competing, to provide diversification; people live and work in their own town, using the shops and services; cafes cook and shops sell what is grown locally; artists use local materials; nothing is dependent on one big industry. Using very little from outside means a low earth footprint which, in itself, is worth advertising for tourism and makes for a sustainable future. I think this is how Cygnet is developing, almost accidentally, and I look forward to the blinkered government and local authorities staying right out of it’s fabulous future!
Sydney is buying and shipping thousands of tons of sand per month from northern Tasmania for making concrete for developments. Is this how Tasmania should be making money?
Integrate not segregate is permaculture principle 8
Many hands make light work