The Tarkine refers to the raw coast south of Arthur River and the plains of the Arthur Pieman Reserve as much as the fabled forests that spread east to the A10. The name was coined by conservationists after the local Tarkiner Aboriginal people in an effort to highlight Tasmania’s largest unprotected wilderness; “greenies” had been pushing for a Tarkine National Park since the 1960s. Of its 593,000 acres of forest, seventy percent constitutes Australia’s largest tract of temperate rainforest, second only in global significance to tracts in British Columbia: a “forgotten wilderness” of giant myrtle forests, wild rivers and bare granite mountains.
So environmentalists were horrified when a road was proposed through its heart from Arthur River to Corinna then Zeehan. Dubbed “the Road to Nowhere”, the Western Explorer was constructed hastily and finished in 1996. During the run up to the Australian federal election in 2004, 180,000 acres received protection from forestry, and awareness of the area grew as a moratorium on logging of ancient native forest was declared in 2011. The conservationists’ push for a national park seemed unstoppable.
As it turns out, logging was the least of their worries. In February 2013, as Australia rode an Asian minerals boom, the government gave a green light to open-cut mining in the Tarkine – the area had been fabled for rich iron, tin and bauxite deposits since the early 1900s. The Save the Tarkine coalition brought about a legal challenge, which cited apocalyptic predictions for the Tasmanian devil in this, one of its last redoubts. But by August 2013, work on two of at least six mines had begun. Mass protests on a scale not seen since the Gordon River dam campaign have been proposed. For updates about campaigns and ways to help, visit the website of pressure group Save the Tarkine (w tarkine.org).