Peter Miller is a man very much swimming against the tide.
He has moved to Gormanston, near Queenstown in Tasmania’s west, at a time when it seems almost everyone else is moving out.
Mr Miller does not mind the lack of activity in the area.
“It reminds me of a modern Jurassic Park, the feeling, the serenity and the basic peace and quietness of it,” he said.
In the early 1900s, Gormanston was a vibrant mining town with more than 2,000 residents, many of them employed at the Mt Lyell Mine.
Now it is commonly referred to by people passing through as a ‘ghost town’, with less than a dozen people living there permanently. But a group of those residents are fighting to keep Gormanston alive.
Mr Miller moved to Gormanston in April and has joined the effort to pressure the West Coast Council to rejuvenate the town.
“You can see it, the infrastructure is still here, there’s slabs of concrete everywhere, the school slab, the old houses are still here,” he said.
The town, which was established in the 1890s to service the mine, suffered as a result of a series of disasters at the mine, the first being when a fire killed 42 workers in 1912.
The most recent was when the mine was placed into caretaker mode after three fatalities in two separate incidents.
Poor copper prices blunted enthusiasm to recommence mining operations at the site.
But Mr Miller said the council had a responsibility not to neglect the town.
“(Council) own a lot of this land too, a lot of it is crown land,” he said.
Town being ‘allowed to rot’
Resident Taz Huxley said Gormanston was “a bloody mess”.
“The town is overgrown, it’s covered in tassel cord rush, which turns into a petrol bomb once it ignites when it’s dried out,” he said.
“The buildings, which should’ve been saved as a major historical feature of the town are falling to pieces.
“The tin is becoming missiles in the high winds we get. People are in danger, the houses are in danger.”
Mr Huxley said residents and former residents would be lodging a petition to try and save the town.
“I’d like to see some recognition of the historical significance of this town. This is basically the birth place of the west coast and it’s just being allowed to rot,” he said.
“We’re petitioning council to try and start getting them to recognise the town and start giving us back something for the rates we pay on the town.
“We’re working with the older residents who have left the town to start working on things like cleaning the town up ourselves.”
Mr Huxley described Gormanston as one of Tasmania’s most important historical towns.
“The historical significance of this town can’t be allowed to die. This is one of the most important and iconic towns in Tasmania.
“We need to preserve that history before it’s gone,” he said.
‘No plans’ to restore town, council says
West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers said council was unlikely to help.
“We collect the rubbish as far as I know, tidy the streets up, clean up some gutters,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that there are some dilapidated structures there and we’re aware of that.”
Alderman Vickers said there “might even be a structure there that belongs to the council that needs demolishing”.
He said removing the derelict buildings would be a costly operation and “at the end of the day, someone’s got to pay for that”.
“We always have trouble recouping the cost when we do step in, in cases like that. These issues take a fair bit of working out.
“We’ve certainly got no plans to do anything more than what we currently do,” he said.
Taz Huxley said the Friends of Gormanston planned to put their petition to the West Coast Council on Tuesday.
The plaque at the site of the school which was destroyed by high winds in 1951. (ABC News: Carla Howarth)