Tarkine tug-of-war exposes family tensions, as Liberals and Labor oppose calls for national park status

Updated

February 25, 2018 18:43:16


Photo:

Bob Brown leads the Save the Tarkine marchers through Hobart. (ABC News: Peta Carlyon)

Not everyone pushing for the protection of the Tarkine wilderness region in Tasmania’s north west is a “radical, latte-sipping greenie”.

That is the message from one of the speakers at a large rally held in Hobart on Sunday.

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More than 1,000 people marched through the city streets, meeting at Parliament Lawns to call for “permanent protection” of the Tarkine, a region which covers over 100,000 hectares, taking in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation area on the rugged west coast.

Also known by its Aboriginal name takayna, the area is considered by many to be one of Australia’s most important sites, with a government website stating it is “a powerful place of great significance”, with numerous locations featuring shell middens, campfires and tools found there.

“A big, open land, shaped and nurtured by the hands of thousands of generations of Aboriginal families, with a coastline sculpted by the enormous swells of the Southern Ocean,” Parks and Wildlife Tasmania notes on it website.

The north west location is also popular with recreational drivers, where “vehicles can drive on more than 130 kilometres of gravel and sealed roads to explore remote coastal communities, wild and windswept beaches, and the vast hinterland of this magnificent region,” the State Government said.

Sections of vehicle tracks along the coast were closed by the previous Labor Government, however the Liberals were swept into power in 2014, pledging to reopen access to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

That bid was thwarted by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, which lodged legal action in the Federal Court to stop access.

The Government wants to close 15 tracks in the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area.

Photo:

Four-wheel-drive enthusiasts rally in 2012 to protest the closure of tracks in the Tarkine. (ABC News: Selina Ross)

On the same day veteran environmental activist Bob Brown addressed the Hobart marchers condemning the Liberal and Labor policies that “threaten to turn this special place into a wasteland”, the Liberal candidate for Braddon Adam Brooks issued a media release reaffirming “Only the Liberals would stop a Tarkine National Park”.

Man holding giant freshwater crayfish at Frankland River, Tasmania January 2017

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Todd Walsh says he is the “opposite” of the stereotypical “latte-sipping greenie”. (Supplied: Dan Broun)

Todd Walsh, a local from the state’s north west, told the crowd in Hobart his stance on the issue had not been looked on well by members of his own family.

Known as the ‘Lobster Man’, Walsh has dedicated his life to tracking and tagging the threatened giant freshwater lobster species which inhabit the rainforests of the area.

“I grew up in the Tarkine and I know that area and the best way to look after it is basically to turn it into a national park,” Mr Walsh said.

“That probably goes against the grain of even my rellies, but in the long-term that’s how it’s got to be.

“If you want to protect the bush, you’re a radical, latte-sipping greenie, which you know is the opposite of what I am.

“I’ve wanted to protect the bush for 20 years. Yes, there’s always a hardcore contingent of Greens, but most people here are average punters.”

Three vehicles make drive on a track on Tasmania's west coast.

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Both Liberal and Labor say they oppose making the Tarkine a national park. (Supplied)

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Theresa Sainty said it can be “demoralising when we see some of the comments” about the campaign to exclude vehicles.

“The negative things that are put out there about what we are wanting, you know ‘locking up’ these places, we’re not locking up places.

“We just don’t want people to ride rough shod over our heritage.”

A hiker walks along a track in the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area on Tasmania's north-west coast.

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Hikers walk along the closed vehicle tracks in the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)

With the state election fast approaching, the Liberals have said they are the only party that would oppose the Tarkine becoming a national park.

“There’s no doubt that a Tarkine National Park would be one of the first priorities of a Labor-Green minority government,” Adam Brooks said.

“Already, over 50 per cent of Tasmania is locked up. Locking-up the Tarkine would cost thousands of jobs in our vital forestry and mining sectors, and we won’t cop it.”

However Labor leader Rebecca White said her party does not support a Tarkine national park.

“We’ve state that very clearly,” Ms White said, adding the party was waiting on the decision of Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg as to whether the reopening of vehicle tracks would threaten Aboriginal heritage sites.

Damage caused by four-wheel drive vehicles.

Photo:

Vehicle track damage at the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area in 2017. (Supplied: Craig Broadfield)

Topics:

activism-and-lobbying,

environmental-impact,

environmental-policy,

environmental-management,

environment,

tourism,

government-and-politics

First posted

February 25, 2018 18:41:38