The Tarkine is Australia's largest remaining tract of cool temperate rainforest. Despite providing crucial habitat for many of Tassie's iconic and threatened species, due to a lack of formal protection, the Tarkine is currently under attack from a series of devastating open cut mining proposals that will compromise this spectacular wild area forever.
The Tarkine is one of the very few unprotected wild places left in Australia – it spans a landscape of wild coastal areas, button grass plains, pristine rivers and ancient rainforests. This landscape holds an outstanding legacy of Aboriginal occupation dating back millennia. It’s home to Australia’s largest remaining tract of cool temperate rainforest. With over 92% of our old growth forest already lost in Australia, this is irreplaceable and includes areas of pure wilderness.
More than 60 threatened species call this area home – such as the Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish (the world’s largest freshwater crustacean), the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and the iconic Tasmanian devil. The Tassie Devil's battle against a debilitating facial tumour disease has devastated the species and threatens its survival. A staggering 80% decline in devil numbers has left them vulnerable to extinction and makes the case to preserve their native habitats all the more critical.
The Tarkine is 'takayna' in Palawa – Tasmania’s Aboriginal language – and is home to some of Australia’s most important Aboriginal heritage. With a history dating back over 40,000 years, Tasmanian Aborigines were the most southerly people to survive the last ice age. On the takayna coast, they left a legacy of shell middens, rock carvings, hut depressions and seal hides. This coast is listed as being of National Heritage significance and the Tarkine as a whole has long been recognised as eligible for World Heritage status.
Today’s Aboriginal community maintains a strong affinity and connection to this land, defending their heritage and working towards equality and land justice that includes the return of the takanya.
Less than 5% of the Tarkine is properly protected in a national park. The rest is open to mining and logging. Despite the burst of the mining bubble, the sad reality is that there remains a plethora of open cut and strip-mines proposed for this potential World Heritage Area, with another 56 exploration licences granted for the region.
Venture Minerals' open cut iron ore mine at Livingstone would be 150 metres deep. Venture’s other proposed project, the Mt Lindsay tin mine, will be a Pilbara-style, open cut pit – a three kilometre scar on the landscape. Once the door is open, it's inevitable that more mines will follow.
Over recent years, the Shree mine at Nelson Bay was approved, constructed, operated and then abandoned. This mine is partly in a ‘conservation area’ – a reserve supposedly protected but open to mining. Once constructed, the mine operated a few short months then closed after the fall in mineral prices. It now sits abandoned, desperately needing rehabilitation.
The Shree mine is a potent example of the need for a change of direction for the Tarkine. The old-style industries of logging and mining offer no genuine future for the north-west community. Proper protection, World Heritage listing and a sustainable future based on tourism and the boutique agricultural products from the surrounding region are the best way forward.
By working in local communities, we’re building a movement of support in Tasmania and on the mainland for a new future for the Tarkine. We can gain formal protection for the Tarkine – as World Heritage, as conservation reserves and as Aboriginal land.
Articulating this future and the alternative it presents to the tired, old model of mining and logging is critical. We’re working on the case and a vision for the Tarkine.
In Tasmania, we’re collaborating with a diverse range of stakeholders, from Aboriginal groups and individuals, tourism operators, photographers, academics, community leaders and other environmentalists.
At the international level, we’re engaged with UNESCO and its advisers to the World Heritage Committee. We’ve made the values-based case for Tarkine World Heritage, and will continue to work at the international level to pressure Australia to act.
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