With the arrival of Europeans, the mountain was quickly recognised as a source of clean water, food, timber and tourism. Many artefacts, sites and stories bring the past alive.
Australia’s first urban (or metropolitan) water supply pipeline, still used today, remains testament to colonial ingenuity - see A History of Water below.
Forestry, farming and quarrying relics are reminders of historic use. The Park also features remnants of forest huts, the Springs Hotel, Exhibition Gardens, ice houses, historically scenic features and other monuments. Some of today’s walking tracks date back to the 1830s, and provided access to various resources.
Most of the walking tracks are testament to the strong recreational interest that began in the early 1800s, initially via the New Town Way. Inspired by her visit to the summit in 1837, Lady Jane Franklin had a hut built at The Springs and one on the Pinnacle. These were the first recreational huts in the Park, but a keen movement began. The ruins of many former ‘weekender’ huts built by groups of locals in exquisite rustic style can still be found in the rainforest gullies overlooking Hobart. Still in use are the younger (early-mid 1900s) stone cabins, chalets and shelters, purpose built for visitors on some of the main tracks.
It is likely that early tracks were also used in part by keen naturalists, such as Charles Darwin, who visited colonial Hobart. The mountain has been an important site of physical and biological investigations, aiding in the understanding of Tasmanian, Australian and world natural history. Many notable scientists made internationally significant discoveries when visiting the area in the 19th century.
Access has improved since then but the road from Fern Tree to the Pinnacle remains a legacy of the hard work of many Tasmanians. Short term prison and free labour built the lower section, with work beginning in 1888. The section from the Springs to the Pinnacle, opened in 1937, was constructed as a Depression era work-for-the-dole scheme. At the time, it was controversial, termed ‘Ogilvie’s Scar’ after the Premier of the day who initiated the development.
Over the last 200 years, Wellington Park has also been the site of debate and dispute regarding the conflicting demands of place, aesthetics, visitor use and tourism, environmental awareness, and resource extraction. The colonial water story is told at the Pumping Shed at the Waterworks Reserve, and is open to the public daily.
Available to download below, the Wellington Park Management Trust's Historic Heritage Audit provides an inventory of heritage places and considers the preservation of important sites. The Wellington Park Historic Tracks and Huts Network Comparative Analysis and Significance Assessment (2012) gives a history of the evolution of the track and hut network on kunanyi / Mount Wellington and its national and international significance.
A history of water
The water from kunanyi / Mount Wellington is said to be the cleanest water available to any major Australian city. And this reliable water supply shaped the new colony.
The importance of access to water was recognised in 1804, when Bowen’s struggling settlement moved from Risdon Cove on the eastern shore of the River Derwent to Sullivan’s Cove where fresh water was more reliable. Governor David Collins noted: ‘… a Run of clear fresh Water, proceeding from a distance inland, and having its source in a Rock in the vicinity of Table Mountain’.
By the 1830s, engineering schemes were being developed to collect and deliver water from the mountain. The first stage of the main pipeline system began in 1861 when wooden and stone masonry troughing was installed to carry water from Browns River at Fern Tree, to the Waterworks Reservoirs to supply clean water to the Hobart Town settlement. Extensions and redevelopment followed population growth as demand for water increased. The stories of water politics and personalities are told at the Waterworks Reserve Pumping Shed museum near site 9; free admission 8am-4pm daily.
Today, high rainfall in Wellington Park provides the source of numerous streams and rivers. Water is the main agent of weathering and erosion, carving valleys, creating boulder fields and inducing landslips. In 1872, after torrential rain, a landslip on the north-west side of Mount Arthur created a temporary dam in the upper reach of Humphreys Rivulet. An explosive roar was heard when the dam broke, sending down a surge of water and debris that destroyed bridges, houses, factories and crops, but resulted in only one fatality. If the same event occurred today, large areas of Glenorchy would be at risk. Floods in 1960 washed away Fern Tree Bower, flooded the weir and inundated lower parts of Hobart.
Groundwater occupies pores and spaces in soils and rock, sometimes spilling to the surface as springs. This water, in its untested and unadulterated state, is collected by some locals for personal use.
The water that comes out of any Hobart tap may well be sourced from Wellington Park. In 2002–03 over 4 000 ML (or about 23% of the total source) of bulk water supply harvested by TasWater came from the area. Healthy water catchments in the Park’s Drinking Water Zone ensure the supply of quality water for the local community. Excellent water purity means that only minor treatment is required for drinking. The relatively high elevation of the collected water alleviates pumping expenses while the close proximity to the market reduces costs.
To protect this important resource there are restricted areas within the Park. Visitor access and activities around these important intakes are managed to ensure the protection of drinking water. Please comply with signs which identify any restricted areas and detail permissible activities.