September 2018

Back to Issue 4

The Controversy

By Lesley Synge

… what we have loved

Others will love, and we will teach them how.

William Wordsworth, The Prelude xiv



Two men keep the packhorse track 

along the tumbling creek 



Having mapped the old timers’ alluvial diggings 

they now commit to preserving their

vanishing paths.  


They no longer live in Queenstown 

so drive up every month  

from Hobart.


They nail pink plastic ribbons to certain trees

encircle sunken shafts with yellow DANGER tape 

make steps.


They discuss the blunder in the town museum –  

‘Hell’ and ‘Misery’ the two separate prospector camps are down as

Helen Misery.


With the breath of King Billys in their lungs

near the cobblestone water races that trapped the gold

they labour.


But a local hardliner says there must be

no ribbons, no tape, no steps 

no compromise. 


Should a tourist plunge into a shaft and break her legs, so be it 

if one becomes confused in the green gloom and spends the night feeding leeches 

let him learn. 


She does not trust the work of geologists (retired or otherwise) 





NOTE: When in Queenstown on the West Coast of Tasmania in 2017, the author was told of a walk through forest where, a century ago, gold prospectors beat a mule track to their claims. She was glad the track was maintained but was astonished to learn that its maintenance is controversial as some think nature should over-run it as soon as possible and obliterate it.