Image for STATE: Promoting tourism in the Tarkine ... a way ahead

Isn’t it fascinating that the Liberal government is not promoting tourism in the Tarkine whilst their driven agenda is to open up remote areas in the WHA to their development cronies.

There are two obvious reasons for this – Firstly the Tarkine region doesn’t have similar tourism recognition as the Western Tasmanian WHA, so there is little commercial identity. Secondly, the last desire for the Liberals is for the tourism and environmental values of the Tarkine to be recognized as to promote secure tenure that would preclude resource extraction.

If I was a gambling man I’d put a sure bet on the listing of the Tarkine region as World Heritage would coincide with an abundance of tourism development interests for the region. Far from hypothetical, this concept is an inevitable reality.

One only has to look at recent developments – The new sealed circuit road from Kunnanah bridge to Tayatea Bridge called the Tarkine Drive has now been officially opened. Almost instantaneously as the region gains some recognition the major of the Circular Head council is advocating some form of lodge development to be built around Lake Chisholm.

Lake Chisholm is the jewel in Tarkine forest, and already it appears to be targeted for probable inappropriate development. The unfortunate aspect is that regional councils simply see a dollar sign behind every tourist, and cannot grasp the concept of environmental sensitivity.

What would certainly promote tourism to the region is the listing of the Tarkine as a World Heritage area, not opportunistic developments to fragile places like Lake Chisholm.

As to date, some aspects of the Tarkine are currently being promoted as a tourism area that is beyond conservative government vision. Most of this tourism promotional momentum has come from the Cradle Coast Authority, and the Circular Head and Waratah Councils who realize that the old paradigm of subsidized resource extraction is no long the life soul of employment, or economic prosperity to their region.

Beyond the settlements of Corinna and Arthur River there is virtually no commercial tourism enclaves within the Tarkine.

According to the Corinna establishment, tourism promotion for the Pieman River region was snubbed by the Tasmanian Tourism Industry and the previous Labor government. This was seemingly due to the political fear that identity of the region may create a push for the protection of the greater Tarkine National Park or World Heritage Area. This is typical of the myopic thinking that is holding the economic prosperity of the northwest region back.

Nobody in either of Tasmania’s Liberal or Labor party understand that the long-term economic benefits of the Tarkine region through appropriate tourism far outweigh the short term heavily-subsidised and environmentally destructive resource extraction regime of the present.

To date most of the Tarkine tourism infrastructure has been focused on the upgrading of the tourist drive from Arthur River township to the Arthur River circuit around the Sumac and Rapid river region, which includes a sealed road to Lake Chisholm.

Considering that Forestry Tas has been promoting the Milkshake Hills Forest Reserve as the Tarkine’s premier tourism destination for decades, then why isn’t there a a sealed road to this region, or any infrastructural upgrades. Sealing of this road, and others to Dempster Lookout and Rebecca Lagoon are an imperative if they want to encourage tourism to the area.

Another sealed eastern road from Tayatea Crossing north of the Arthur River to the Dip River Forest Reserve would provide additional easy access to the Tarkine Tourism Drive.

An investment into Forest reserve upgrades, and several new interpretive walking trails around the Rebecca Lagoon, Balfour Track, Sumac Lookout, and the Rapid and Julius Rivers would promote the region beyond just being a drive.

A grander vision of a trans-Tarkine multi-day wilderness walk from east to west is currently under investigation. Such a walk would give the Tarkine region some international recognition. The construction of it alone, estimated at $20 million, would invigorate the local economy, and should create many jobs.

The potential for Tarkine tourisms to boost the northwest’s economy is bountiful.

All it needs is a new vision well beyond the old - Chop it down, Dig it up ideology.