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Queenstown Tasmania : A feature packed town at the end of urbanisation.

During the summer of 1881 Con Lynch and Tom Currie led foraging parties inland from Macquarie Harbour to explore beyond the first King River gorge and the tributing Queen River. The motivation was to find new exploitable stands of valuable Huon Pine and prospect for Gold. They found a huge tract of ancient temperate rainforest with the densest proliferation of ancient Huon Pines and astonishingly King Billy pines growing together. They also panned traces of Gold in the Queen River. The government had recently made the incredible sum of 5000 pounds available to reward the discovery of a minable Goldfield in an effort to stop the population drain caused by people leaving the island for the Victorian rush. This was a huge sum of money at the time, more than enough incentive to get hardy prospectors exploring the Western Wilderness.

None were hardier than Thomas Currie who prospected up the deep eastern gorge of a tributary of the Queen River onto a ridge between Mt Owen and Mt Lyell with a large spectacular waterfall to the right. After recovering from near exhaustion he headed back down the Queen river valley without knowing he had camped and rested a few hundred yards from the Iron Blow.

One of Lynches party then found a cricket ball sized chunk of Quartz stone heavy with nuggety Gold in a tributary to the lower Queen River. A Gold bearing quartzite ore body was identified and pegged, Lynch set off to file the claim and the King River Gold Mining Company was soon floated.

A minor rush ensued and at least a dozen more claims were soon pegged. This first settlement called Lynches was established about a mile north of what would later become Lynchford. The 15 mile supply cartway that was established from the former colonial site of Farm Cove on Macquarie harbour to Lynches enabled tools, equipment and machinery to be laboriously bullocked inland to the several quickly established Piners and Miners shows would become known as the Lynch/Currie route.

The King River Gold Mine water powered 10 head stamp battery could be heard all over the Queen River valley.

King River Gold stamp crusher
 King River Gold water powered stamp crusher : circa 1885 

Early 1883, Brothers Bill and Mick McDonough (also known as the Cooney Boys) with Steve Karlson would form the trio that began mining Gold on the eastern flank of the ridge between Mt Lyell and Mt Owen. There, around a dark ironstone outcrop that looked as if it had been blown up from inside the ground and hence named the Iron Blow they pegged a claim and formed the Mt Lyell mining company.

10 years later Bowes Kelly would realise it to be a significant Copper deposit. Without divulging vital information to the incumbent stakeholders (most notably Mr James Crotty) he proceeded to transform this early effort into the Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Company.

Early Mt Lyell Mining Iron Blow

Queenstown became the major of several towns that made up the broader Lyell district. Built around the success of the Robert Sticht innovated Pyritic Smelter and the Abt Railway, from 1897 the town quickly grew to boast a population exceeding 5000. Combined with the nearby earlier townships of Gormanston, Linda, Lynchford, Comstock, and later the Lake Margaret village, the Lyell district population peaked at just over 10000 and would maintain around 7000 people until 1970. The 1963 closure of the Railway as the company switched to automotive and the 1969 closure of the smelter as world trade markets started to take effect saw the workforce shed 1000 employees. When mining went large scale underground from 1972 the implementation of mechanisation combined with the outsourcing of some supplies and services further eroded the employee numbers. The advent of 12hr shift rostered work regimes during the later 1980's and the winding up of the community nurturing Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Company saw the population diminish to 3200 by the mid 1990's. Queenstown's resident population  continued to decline after 1995 when principal contractors were invited to tender for the Mt Lyell mining operation. The workforce quickly became transient and the remaining locals economic focus began to shift away from mining. Queenstown's resident population diminished to 1700.

By the late 2000's after almost a decade of stagnancy, even though the Mt Lyell mine was producing record tonnages, Queenstown was noticeably evolving. Even acknowledgement and recognition of the game changing NO DAMS controversy of the early 1980's became a topic that could now be discussed without fear. The regrowth of the forests started accelerating and became easily noticeable. Change had already occurred. 

The Mt Lyell mine ceased production in 2014 and Queenstown has since become better known as a spectacular wild place of artistic expression, nature based tourism and adventure activities mixed with the interestingly spirited history of pioneer mining on the wild frontier. Queenstown and Strahan remain as wild frontier towns at the edge of Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Mt Owen pink summer sunset
 Cutten street Queenstown 

 

Queenstown is the centre of services for Western Tasmania.

  • District Hospital: At the top end of Orr street has 3 emergency rooms, several acute wards, aged care, Xray, pathology and most other health care services one would expect at a regional hospital. GP consultation, emergency medivac services and general patient transfer services.

  • Pharmacy: Queenstown Medical Union comprehensive pharmacy. Professionally staffed and led by a resident pharmacist. Orr street.

  • Chiropractor and remedial massage: At the Queenstown Medical union building on Cutten street.

  • Australia Post: The post office is in the centre of Orr street and stocks a range of clothing, stationary, media devices, gifts and souvenir items.

  • Service Tasmania: Where government services can be accessed and engaged. Located under the same roof as local government (council). Main entrance is on Driffield street. The Robert Sticht memorial library is here.

  • Banking and Finance: Queenstown has face to face banking services supported by Bendigo Bank. Orr street.

  • Hair salon: Belladonna provides the full range of haircare services. Includes a barber shop style service. Cutten street.

  • Homewares, tools, utensils, hardware lines, gardening supplies, electrical goods and basic clothing lines.....Queenstown Market Place. As the name suggests. Most things can be found here. Orr street.

  • Supermarkets: Queenstown has two IGA supermarkets. Both in Orr street, are very well stocked and have friendly local staff.

  • Second Hand store: St Vincents second hand opportunity shop (Vinnies) Cutten street.

  • The Barnstore McNamara street Queenstown has a collection of eclectic items for sale and trade. Find market trade booths where locally created items and souvenirs can be purchased.

  • Art galleries: Queenstown has a robust and varied art scene with galleries and installations across town. Call into the Soggy Brolley art and design studio on Orr street or contacting the team at Presswest on Bowes street is a great place to get started.

  • Swimming Pool: Queenstown has a public swimming pool operated by local council with change and shower facilities available. Located along the Esplanade.

  • Gym: The well equipped gym is operated by the local council and can be accessed by contacting the local council office on Sticht street. Phone 64 714 700

 

  • Schools and childcare: Queenstown has a public school from prep to year 10 located in South Queenstown on Conlan street and a private (St Josephs) primary school located on Orr street. There is an early learning childcare facility on Selby street.​

  • 7XS local radio: Tune into 92.1FM 

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