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Monday, June 13, 2016

No plan for Port Arthur to run Willow Court

A PROPOSAL to have the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) take responsibility for Maria Island National Park will not be expanded to include Willow Court.

Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Matthew Groom last week said a working group was examining the potential transfer of Maria Island management to PAHSMA. Mr Groom said the group was being chaired by PAHSMA conservation and infrastructure director Jane Harrington. "I think we can do better to celebrate the extraordinary convict heritage that exists on Maria Island," Mr Groom said.

Addressing a Budget Estimates Hearing in Hobart last Wednesday, Mr Groom said he was excited about the opportunity and $220,000 had been allocated in the State Budget. "This can be a significant step change for how Maria Island is presented to the world," he said.

Lyons Labor MHA David Llewellyn asked whether the minister would have Port Arthur look at the management of Willow Court precinct at New Norfolk. "That facility predates Port Arthur. It is one of the iconic sites from a convict heritage point of view, and yet does not get the attention it deserves," Mr Llewellyn said. "Will you also have Dr Harrington look at the management of the Willow Court precinct with its barracks and buildings?"

Mr Groom rejected the notion, saying: "I have made it very clear that this specific inquiry, investigation, assessment, and working group task is focused on the Maria Island opportunity."

Mr Llewellyn said he was not being critical of the minister's decision. "For a long time I have put the point of view that PAHSMA ought to be the people who are administering that wonderful icon at New Norfolk."

Mr Groom acknowledged that Willow Court was an extraordinary place. "It has an incredible story to be told there," he said. "I know there have been a lot of efforts, in fact, there has been a fair bit happening at Willow Court, significant new activities." 

"There are some really exciting examples of how Willow Court has been better celebrated and where the stories are told and people are invited in to experience that extraordinary location.  It really is remarkable," Mr Groom said.  "As for the current work we are doing about the expansion of PAHSMA's role, it is something that we are limiting to the Maria Island opportunity.  We think that is important to give it focus and make sure we get it right."

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