Thoreau once said, “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World”, and in no place could that be said to more true than the Tarkine. To be stared in the eye by a Tasmanian Wedge-Tailed eagle, to hear the growl of a Tasmanian devil, to walk through the Tarkine’s rainforests, or to experience the wildness of its roaring coastline is to truly feel alive – living an experience that cannot be bought, sold or replicated.
The Tarkine is Tasmania’s largest unprotected wilderness area. The area contains extensive landscapes that are at a very high level of biophysical naturalness. These areas include the Norfolk Range, Mt Bertha, the Savage River system, and the Meredith Range. The Tarkine contains the largest tract of wilderness quality rainforest in Australia, and a large number of rivers that are in pristine or wilderness condition.
The social value of wilderness is firmly established in Australia. After a nation-wide campaign in 1983 halted the construction of the Gordon below Franklin Dam and precipitated the establishment of Tasmania’s South-West Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Tarkine Wilderness became the focus of protests in the mid-1990s. These were aimed at halting the construction of a link road, ‘the road to nowhere’, through high quality wilderness between Balfour and Corinna. Despite completion of the road in 1996, large tracts of high quality wilderness still exist in the Tarkine, and constitute the core of the proposed Tarkine National Park.
The definition of wilderness as adopted by the Australian Heritage Commission is: “Wilderness areas are large areas in which ecological processes continue with minimal change caused by modern development. Indigenous custodianship and customary practices have been, and in many places continue to be, significant factors in creating what non-indigenous people refer to as wilderness.”
Various scientific techniques have been developed to evaluate wilderness quality, and surveys of the Tarkine during the Tasmanian Regional Forests Agreement revealed several core areas of high-quality wilderness within the Tarkine region. These include:
The Norfolk Range Wilderness
An extensive area of buttongrass moorlands along the western coastal zone between Hazard Bay and Conical Rocks Point, that extends inland to include the Norfolk Range, the Tikkawoppa Plateau and Bernafai Ridge.
The Savage River / Mt Bertha Wilderness
This is the most extensive tract of wilderness in the proposed Tarkine National Park, which includes the extensive rainforests of the Donaldson, Savage and Heazlewood River catchments – the largest contiguous tract of rainforest wilderness in Australia, with the wilderness setting of this rainforest making it outstanding on a national scale. Logging operations to the north and east of this rainforest wilderness define and eat away at the integrity of its northern boundary.
Meredith Range Wilderness
This is comprised of the extraordinary granite mountain range, the Meredith range, in the south of the Tarkine, with the eastern portion of this wilderness block dominated by rainforest, and the western portion defined by buttongrass moorland and the Meredith range itself.
A block of wilderness quality rainforest of which the Sumac reserve forms its core. Logging operations have compromised parts of this wilderness area and impacted on its contiguity with other core wilderness areas in the Tarkine.
The Tarkine holds the highest density of wild rivers in Tasmania outside of the existing Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and much of the Tarkine National Park proposal is made up of undisturbed river catchments.
The opportunities for wilderness protection in Tasmania have been greater than many other places throughout the world, because Tasmania still retains large areas of relatively undisturbed landscapes. Whilst large areas of Tasmania’s southern wilderness have been securely reserved, the Tarkine does not yet have that protection, despite the fact that the areas of high quality wilderness within the proposed Tarkine National Park are of great significance. Full protection of the Tarkine as a National Park and World Heritage listed area will ensure the survival of these wilderness areas into the future. The wilderness estate would also be greatly enhanced by the rehabilitation of areas within the Tarkine that have been damaged by destructive activities.