Tourists are having a greater role to play in the future of the Tarkine, and there has been a steady increase in the number of tourists that visit the Tarkine region. This has many great community, conservation and economic benefits. As more people visit the Tarkine and see its beauty – the case for its protection grows stronger. As tourism delivers a growing economic benefit to our local community – the case for conservation rather than resource extraction grows stronger also. However, we always have to be careful – and plan things out sensibly – and whilst eco-tourism provides an excellent economic alternative to destructive resource extractive industries, it must be noted that tourism in itself also has the potential to cause significant environmental harm if not managed sensibly. Inappropriate off-road vehicle use is causing serious damage in parts of the coastal region, whilst bushwalkers often unknowingly spread the damaging root-rot fungus into previously uninfected parts of the Tarkine. Poor planning around visitor sites and walking trails could lead to erosion, pollution and other management problems. This has proven to be the case in other areas, where these issues have on occasion not been properly thought out.
Save the Tarkine has been fortunate to work with a number of tourism operators in guiding the development of a sustainable tourism industry that values the Tarkine. Many of these operators have become champions, and some of the loudest voices for conservation of this remarkable area. This has included promoting the development of private accommodation and facilities adjacent to but outside of the National Park itself, and using existing infrastructure, facilities and cleared sites to provide access, development and gateway points for tourists. This way, tourists can experience the Tarkine Wilderness without damaging it – which is what the vast majority of tourists want to do anyway. For example – Arthur River, Corinna, and Waratah provide fantastic examples of where tourist businesses have great opportunities to increase tourist visitation without any significant change in the environmental footprint in those areas – as they are already cleared sites with existing infrastructure, and plenty of capacity to handle tourists without any increase in the environmental impact on the region.
One of the central components of developing a well managed National Park for the Tarkine is that the Parks & Wildlife service will need to be well resourced to look after the region, with enough wildlife officers, rangers, support staff and adequate funding. Currently the Parks & Wildlife Service in Tasmania is desperately under-funded – and this occurs no more so than in the Tarkine, where a skeleton staff is expected to manage a vast area and number of reserves. With increasing numbers of visitors coming to see the region – it is completely untenable to have the Parks service to continue to be poorly funded – and it is critically important that the Tasmanian government substantially increases the core funding to the Parks & Wildlife Service, for the service to be able to employ more staff, and for the service to have ongoing adequate core funding for services, facilities and maintenance.