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Fit for a king

Published 21 Sep 2010 

– SOLD –

The protection of King Island near Hobart is the legacy of one remarkable Tasmanian.

King George IslandA view across King George Island, looking east. Photo copyright: PropertyPIX

Fringed by towering blue gums and white gums interspersed with groves of drooping sheoak and pockets of coastal heath and grassland, King George Island lies just off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania's Forestier Peninsula a short drive from Hobart.

When spring arrives on the island, the silver wattles are a riot of bright yellow flowers and the large, nectar-rich flowers of the blue gums are coming into bloom.

With views across Norfolk Bay towards Mount Wellington and across King George Sound, this is the kind of place that makes you take a long, deep breath in, followed by a slow and steady exhalation.

Perhaps that's what the late Henry Baldwin did when he last set foot on his beloved King George Island.

What Henry did to protect this view

Those views were what Henry, a Hobart-based engineer and highly respected philanthropist who died in 2007 at the age of 87, loved most about this place – and in 2005, he took some extraordinary steps to ensure those views remained long after he was there to enjoy them.

Henry BaldwinHenry Baldwin. Photo courtesty of the Baldwin family.

Merrilyn Julian, Bush Heritage's Planned Giving Philanthropy Executive remembers her first meeting with Henry, after he had approached Bush Heritage about bequeathing the island to the organisation in 2005.

'Henry was very frail but still very sharp,' says Merrilyn, who visited his home 'Markree', in Hobart's Battery Point in 2005.

'I remember looking around as we walked down the hall and marvelling at the beautiful antique furniture, family portraits and paintings in every room, the porcelain, silver and other decorative objects on every surface. It was like walking into Tasmania's colonial history.'

'Henry was a remarkable man and, just like King George Island, his house was an expression of his commitment to preserving Tasmania's cultural and natural heritage.'

King George Island's rocky shoresKing George Island's rocky shores. Photo: Alistair Dermer.

By all accounts, King George Island was very dear to Henry. He bought a holiday shack on the coast at Murdunna so he could enjoy his own private view to the island's rocky shores fringed by blue and white gums.

'We were honoured that Henry approached us to carry out his wishes and ensure the tranquillity of the island was protected forever,' says Merrilyn. 'He was very clear that he wanted to protect the island from high-rise development and to maintain its natural values and beauty.'

'Henry agreed to bequeath King George Island to Bush Heritage on the condition that a conservation covenant was placed on the property before it passed into our hands and that we would then sell it to raise funds towards our long-term conservation goals elsewhere.'

'This was an extraordinarily generous gesture and we were delighted he entrusted us to work with his lawyers to ensure his wishes were met,' says Merrilyn.

Cranberry bushCranberry heath. Photo: Matt Appleby

A safe home for wildlife

Henry Baldwin was perhaps not the only one to appreciate the island's views – King George is home to a number of threatened species and vegetation communities.

Bush Heritage Ecologist Matt Appleby thinks the white-bellied sea-eagle almost certainly perches there when foraging for food.

'A nest site has been recorded on the mainland just across from the island,' he says, 'which means that the white-bellied sea-eagle is highly likely to use the island's blue gums as a vantage point.'

Another threatened bird likely to visit the island is the endangered swift parrot.

'The swift parrot feeds predominantly on the large blossom of the blue gum,' explains Matt, 'and so probably visits King George Island on its annual migration down the east coast of Tasmania after leaving its winter home in New South Wales.'

King George IslandForests of blue gum, white gum and drooping sheoak. Photo: Alistair Dermer.

Henry and his legacy

Graham Baldwin, one of Henry's closest surviving relatives, remembers Henry as 'a very private man, who never married, and who lived conservatively. Henry was a pillar of the church and he lived by his principles. He was extremely generous, with a strong sense of obligation to the community.'

Prior to seeing Henry's Will, Graham didn't know his cousin owned King George Island, but he suspects Henry's wartime training as a maritime engineer was a key influence in his decision to buy the island. 'He always loved ships and the Hobart harbour and Derwent estuary,' Graham recalls.

Henry's sense of community has now become his legacy – not only will the island's silver wattles, golden pea and native cranberry bushes continue to support the native animals that call it home, but its sale will support Bush Heritage's ongoing work at reserves like Scottsdale, Goonderoo and Yourka.

Kink George Island shoreline. Photo: Alistaire DermerPhoto: Matt Appleby

Henry's philanthropy extended well beyond Bush Heritage – his bequests, which supported 21 different charities, demonstrated his commitment to future generations of Australians. He bequeathed his family home Markree, with all its contents and a substantial sum of money, to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, who plan to open Markree as a museum in 2011.

In line with Henry's wishes, Bush Heritage assisted with the drafting of a conservation covenant to protect the natural values of the island. In the same way that our supporters enable Bush Heritage to protect the landscapes and wildlife on our reserves, the covenant will help to ensure the swift parrot and the white-bellied sea-eagle can continue to visit the island in the state that Henry left it, forever.

'There's something very magical about standing on top of the hill in the centre of the island and looking out over the water,' says Matt Appleby. 'It's so incredibly peaceful and private. I can see why Henry loved it here so much.'

Have you dreamt of owning an island?

King George Island could be your home. This eighteen-hectare island off the coast of Tasmania's Forestier Peninsula is now for sale.

The island's conservation covenant allows for construction of one small building – could this be your dream home?

The proceeds of the island's sale will go to Bush Heritage, to help us protect Australia's unique landscapes forever. For enquiries, call Paul Lawson of First National on 0413127679.

Considering making a gift in your Will?

Every bequest to Bush Heritage, however large or small, helps us to protect the unique species that call Australia home.

Leaving a bequest to Bush Heritage shows a very special commitment and is one of the best ways to support our ongoing conservation work.

If you would like to speak to us about remembering Bush Heritage in your will, contact Merrilyn Julian and the Planned Giving Team on (03) 8610 9120.

By Bron Willis

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