Have you heard of the Tunnel Marsh Fossicking Area?
Back in 1996, when Tasmania’s Fossicking Areas were proclaimed into law, there were eleven, instead of the current ten. Tunnel Marsh was the 9th Fossicking Area proclaimed in the original order. However, in the years after its proclamation, it mysteriously dropped off the map, and is no longer recognised in the Mineral Resources Tasmania page as an approved Fossicking Area. Since the area has reverted to being public land, and is unreserved, Tunnel Marsh should be re-instated as a Fossicking Area.
I was going through the original proclamation of Tasmania’s Fossicking Areas, as part of the research for my previous blog post on Where to Go, when I discovered that the original list was made up of not ten (the current number), but eleven Fossicking Areas. Tunnel Marsh was originally proclaimed a Fossicking Area with all the rest back in 1996. The land was, back then, vested on the Hydro-Electric Commission. This means that the Hydro, although a public utility, owned the land in a private capacity. You can see a plan of the originally proclaimed Area here (PDF). I could find no record in the legislation, or in the Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT) website of the Fossicking Area being officially revoked. Even so, all mention of Tunnel Marsh disappeared from the official booklet and web-page on Tasmania’s Fossicking Areas.
The main material collected from Tunnel Marsh was mostly agate, which was present in quaternary gravels. The quality was similar to those found in Penstock Lagoon, which, unfortunately, is in private property. You can see some Penstock agates in the Mindat website.
It appears that the land at Tunnel Marsh was eventually sold by the HEC. There is quite a lot of land around the highland lakes that is marked in the (1990s vintage) 1:25,000 Tasmap as belonging to the Hydro. A lot of this is now private freehold property, so at some point between then and now it got sold off. However, when I used LISTmap to overlay land tenure (info on who owns the land) over the 1:25,000 maps, I found that the whole area that was once a fossicking area, and the area around it, are nowadays classed as “Permanent Timber Production Zoned Land”, i.e. what we used to call State Forest. This is perfectly legal to prospect in, provided you’re the holder of a prospecting licence. Here’s the area of the original proclamation, and the current land tenure (as of May 2015) over the area:
The area is now public land again, but is it still (or again) a Fossicking Area?
I’m not sure if the legislation that proclaimed Tunnel Marsh a Fossicking Area was ever really officially repealed, since I could find no evidence of this. Since the land was sold, and for some time at least was in private hands, it was out of bounds for fossicking. However, recent conversations with MRT seem to confirm that — now that it has reverted to Government ownership — we can indeed fossick there, as far as they’re concerned. I still have to confirm with Forestry Tasmania (FT), who are listed as the landowner, and they still need to confirm that it’s OK. Why? There is an important difference between Crown Land (owned by everyone) which is administered by FT, and private freehold property purchased and owned outright by FT (as a publicly owned corporation). If the land at Tunnel Marsh is the second type of ownership, FT can legally refuse access.
It would be fantastic if MRT could clarify in an official capacity, and add information about Tunnel Marsh to the Fossicking Areas page and booklet as soon as possible.