Central Plateau scene: H Lloyd, 'Encampment at Hunters near Lake St. Clair', 1872 (ALMFA, SLT)
The Central Plateau has been a place of opportunity but also of peril in the human history of Tasmania, a place where access to seasonally abundant resources has always been mediated by extremes of cold and endurance. Rising in the centre of the island, the Plateau was covered in ice as recently as 10,000 years ago. As the climate became warmer around 3000 years ago, Aboriginal Tasmanians began more regularly exploiting its resources and more intimately weaving its topography into a cultural dialogue of place and identity.
European settlers sought to impose their own imprint on the Plateau from the 1830s, carving it into freehold and leasehold grazing runs covering almost its entire surface. The settlers quickly understood its opportunities and constraints, and developed a transhumant grazing system that, in some places, still continues. Grass, however, was not the only valued resource. The Plateau's water resources and topography attracted those with a vision of an island economy powered by renewable hydro-electricity. Power stations, dams and associated infrastructure were thus developed from the early twentieth century. Hunters were also attracted to the Plateau by its animals' thick winter pelts, and from the 1890s to the 1960s turned the trapping and snaring of game into a significant industry, some features of which were internationally significant.
As time has passed, however, Australians have come to value the Plateau for its scientific and recreational values in addition to its resource values in an accommodation to the land that reflects a search for sustainability and an emerging European sense of place and identity.
Further reading: T Jetson, The roof of Tasmania, Launceston, 1989.