Property owner defends road closure bid, as row over Tasmanian dam access worsens
The owners say disgruntled locals are shooting and running over stock on the farm. (Supplied: Fraser Miller )
The owner of a rural property in Tasmania’s south has defended his bid to close a public road on his land, saying he and his wife are having to deal with late-night hooning, threats of physical violence, illegal hunting and piles of human excrement left in buildings because there are no public amenities.
- The owners of the property say they have been verbally abused and threatened when asking people to get off their land
- They say there are public safety issues at the dam’s eastern end, such as a lack of mobile coverage and unstable cliff faces
- The local council has received over a hundred submissions over plans to close access to the public road
Whiskey industry executive Fraser Miller and his wife Mel Nardi bought the 1000-hectare Mt Baines property last year for about $1.8 million.
Their bid to close off access to the eastern end of a popular fishing and recreational waterway, the man-made Craigbourne Dam, by closing a road through their property has started a battle with locals, which sparked discussion online and accusations of “elites” trying to extinguish the rights of “ordinary people”.
The road is public, but stops short of the dam, with the last 20 metres to the water’s edge technically on the couple’s land.
They are now petitioning the Southern Midlands Council to close the road because of continuous problems with “people dumping rubbish”, “defecating in shearing sheds and hunting shacks” and “running over or shooting livestock”, Mr Miller told the ABC.
“There’s a significant risk posed by illegal hunting on the weekends because people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol and they’re discharging firearms,” Mr Miller said.
“There is a real risk of someone being shot because there are no controls on who or when people are entering our property.”
Mr Miller said in the past when he and his wife asked people to leave, they had been “verbally abused, physically assaulted and threatened with violence”.
The owners say trespassers are shooting out windows and damaging sheds and hunting shacks on the property. (Supplied: Fraser Miller )
“We’ve worked hard to purchase this property and are working even harder to establish it as a viable sheep farm,” he said.
“This legacy section of road provides continued and unwanted access to our land for trespassers and other illegal activities.”
He said if the road remained open, it would result in “serious injury or death, an outcome we’re trying to avoid”.
Tasmania Police has previously told the ABC there had been reports of trespassing “and vehicles doing burn-outs in the area”, but ultimately it was a local government matter.
At the other end of Craigbourne Dam, another public road leads to a boat ramp and amenities.
For the Southern Midlands Council to close the eastern road, it has to prove its continued use poses a risk to public safety.
It would also have to be weighed against public benefit.
A user of Craigbourne Dam, near Colebrook, with a ‘hands off’ sign in their car window. (Facebook: Craigbourne Dam Access Under Threat)
Third way sought to ease tension
Mr Miller said the lack of mobile coverage at the dam’s eastern end, unstable cliff faces and muddy shoreline constituted a very real public risk.
“Should anyone get into difficulty, given the secluded nature of the area in question it is very likely things will go from bad to worse without anyone noticing or even knowing help is required,” he said.
Buildings at Mt Baines have had their windows shot out and interiors damaged, the owners say. (Supplied: Fraser Miller )
A social media campaign is being waged opposing the road closure by locals who have been using it since the dam was built in 1986.
Southern Midlands mayor Alex Green said the council had received about 100 submissions and expected more by the time the public consultation period ended on Monday.
“If we can identify a third way we’d certainly like to explore it,” Cr Green said.
“These are not new issues, they’re historical issues but no-one has really attempted to resolve them.
“We don’t want to curtail access for anglers and legitimate users, it’s about people using this access for illegal purposes to the detriment of the property owners.”
The matter will be discussed at the council’s next meeting in January.