The conflicted beauty of Tasmania’s Tarkine, takayna in the Tasmanian Aboriginal palawa kani language, is unknown to most Australians.
The Tasmanian government is keeping its disgraceful degradation of world heritage forests out of national attention, losing precious tourism investment in exchange for a few votes, while it devalues this great asset.
Tasmanian DEA members Rohan Church and Darren Briggs have been planning for years to take a group of us to this extraordinary place to learn of the beauty and outrage. The 2019 DEA conference in Hobart brought us together and provided a chance to take a group out. Sixteen people began their Tarkine adventure on 8th April 2019 after the Hobart iDEA19 conference.
Fantastic menu started with bread from Pigeon Whole Bakery
Local knowledge and long-term planning enabled us to see so many places and meet passionate experts in an amazing week in the Tarkine. With two nights at Darren’s beautiful holiday homes in Tullah we enjoyed a leisurely day at the southeast corner of the region, kayaking and climbing, with the ascent of Mt Farrell a highlight.
Reece Hydropower Station
Mt Lyell abandoned tin mine pit
Mt Farrell, near Tullah
We learnt of the outrageously secretive logging practices encouraged by the Tasmanian government from a great video we watched on Monday evening. Dr Nicole Anderson, a GP at Smithton just north of the Tarkine, runs hundreds of kilometres through the Tarkine, often passing around locked gates across the road. She sees destruction taking place, and is able to document planned logging, assist in actions to oppose it, and photograph the inevitable devastation where logging goes ahead. Beloved forest giants gone forever.
View near Fossil Bluff
Scott Jordan, Takine Campaign Director for
Bob Brown Foundation
, and Sumac Camp Manager for
Save the Tarkine
community conservation organisation told us his story on Tuesday evening. Scott's management expertise enables committed forest activists to protect the forest with their lives.
Day three we drove from Tullah to Corrina, where we walked along the Whyte River, then drove along the Road to Nowhere, to the Sumac Camp where Scott showed us around. Here we saw the operation of the tree sit, which enables skilled climbers to prevent logging with their lives. They protect not just the tree they are in, 20m above the ground, but a wide diameter of trees which can be attached to the sitter by cables. This makes any logging life-threatening – not just for the tree, or the planet, but for an identified human being. The current Sumac Camp had been operating for 187 days on the day we visited, and will remain one day longer than the loggers attempt to log. Scott has been protecting Tasmania’s wild beauty for decades, and provides an inspiration of a life of service to planet earth. Appreciation of Scott and his team’s efforts can be shown through donating to Bob Brown Foundation or Save the Tarkine.
After Sumac we drove on to the Arthur River settlement where our evening education was provided by Rob Saltmarsh. Rob has spent his life in northern Tasmania and is passionate to remind us about the genocide of the Aboriginal people of North West Tasmania. He holds great knowledge and concern for their distinctive language and culture. Why weren’t we told of such slaughter?
Day four was spent with Basil O’Halloran, a geologist, educator, and former Greens MP for the Tasmanian seat of Braddon. Basil showed us 280 million years of geological history at Fossil Bluff, explained how to estimate the carbon storage of a tree through measurement with our bodies, careful observation and basic calculation. The Eucalyptus (probably regnans or maybe obliqua) we measured at 40m likely held 90m3 of timber and 220t of carbon – a lifetime of emissions on his estimate. If we can’t value the trees for their beauty, their attraction for tourists, their ecological services, their aesthetic value or their intrinsic worth…. Can we value them for their carbon storage?
Aboriginal midden near Arthur River
Basil took us down a steep slope to the breath-taking McGowan Falls, the final contact of the trip with the wild Tarkine. Basil is near to launching a tourist venture Rare Earth, to allow people to experience and be rejuvenated by a week in the Tarkine, seeking to overcome the government’s timidity in promoting this world wonder at risk.
We enjoyed a barbecue with students and staff from the Burnie UTAS Rural Clinical School on Thursday evening. We were reminded of the climate emergency we must face, watching 350.org documentary Accelerate. A fitting end to an educational and inspiring few days, a step closer to the reality we face as we leave Tasmania.
Photography courtesy of Rosalie Schultz, Lydia Birch and Hannah Birch