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Franklin River (1979-1983)
In 1979 Rodney joined the Melbourne Branch of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (TWS) as a volunteer and helped campaign against controversial plans by the Tasmanian State Hydro Electric Commission (HEC) to build a huge hydro-electric dam on the Franklin River in Tasmania's beautiful south-west wilderness - one of Australia's last great wilderness rivers. The campaign attracted national and international attention. In 1982 he temporarily abandoned work as a freelance musician and music teacher to work full time on the Franklin campaign.
From the Melbourne TWS office, Rodney was one of many who helped with many aspects of the campaign, including the running of the famous peaceful community blockade held at the proposed dam-site where over 1000 demonstrators were arrested - in a key strategy move Rodney (and friend Colin Hocking) organised for a huge box of home-made chocolate frogs to be shipped from Melbourne to the Franklin for the sustenance of blockade organisers!
When the Australian Federal Election (which was crucial in determining the outcome of the campaign) was called in March 1983, Rodney was appointed the co-ordinator of the Society's many Victorian electorate branches. The Opposition Labor Party pledged to stop the dam. The Election saw the defeat of the conservative Liberal Government and a win for Labor (and the Democrats) with the support of the Society's high profile and sophisticated 'No Dams' campaign. The issue was finally resolved in July 1983 when the Federal High Court voted narrowly (4-3) against the dam. Later that year Rodney was awarded an Australia Council grant to study recorder in Italy with Kees Boeke.
Rodney held the position of Mallee Project Officer for the (Australian) Wilderness Society (1987-1990) and co-ordinated the state environment movement's campaign for increased national park areas to protect large tracts of fragile semi-arid Mallee country in northwestern Victoria. The area contains Victoria's largest wilderness areas, but little of it was protected in conservation reserves, and large areas were vulnerable to degradation due to sheep grazing, brush harvesting, mining and clearing.
In May 1990, the Wilderness Society (and supporting groups such as the Victorian National Parks Association - VNPA) celebrated a significant victory for wilderness - the protection of the Sunset Country and Big Desert in Victoria's Mallee country through the declaration of new national parks and wilderness reserves. The three-year campaign led to the addition of 856,000 hectares to the existing reserve system, taking the total area in the Mallee now protected to over 1,000,000 hectares.
In March 1994 Rodney was appointed by the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) to co-ordinate the campaign to stop the State Government and developers from building a new downhill ski resort on Mt Stirling (northeast Victoria) linked by gondola to the nearby Mt Buller resort. Mt Stirling is a very popular 'wilderness' cross-country (nordic) ski and bushwalking destination and many people from all sides of the political spectrum were opposed to the proposed development.
During this time Rodney also campaigned (largely unsuccessful - the Forest Industries held sway) for extensive new national parks in Victoria's Central Highlands (northeast of Melbourne).
As the VNPA's Alpine Resort's Project Officer, he also made submissions to the State Government review of the Alpine Resorts Commission (1994).
Rodney was the VNPA's representative on the Mt Stirling Environmental Effects (EES) consultative committee from 1994 to 1996 and authored and presented VNPA's comprehensive final submission to the EES panel (1996). The EES panel recommended to the Government that the ski development not proceed on environmental and economic grounds. In early 1997 the Government backed away from the development, declaring that Mt Stirling would remain a nature-based destination, and that no new downhill ski proposal should be considered there for at least 15 years.
Rodney worked as a temporary assistant to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) principally on the issue of national environmental law reform as proposed by the Howard Coalition Government.
Rodney worked as Native Vegetation Project Officer for Environment Victoria from November 1998 until December 2001. The native vegetation that existed at the time of European settlement has almost gone from many parts of Australia. The need to protect and manage the remnants of bushland that remain is essential if we are to preserve something of our heritage for future generations of Australians. Rodney's work focused on preserving and enhancing remnant native vegetation in the state of Victoria. See his submission to Victoria's Draft Native Vegetation Framework and Regional Plans for details. Visit the Environment Victoria website for more information.