Image for TARKINE: Why the Tasmanian Forest Intergovernmental Agreement got it wrong ...

*Pic: An epiphytic draped blackwood tree in the Tarkine rainforest

Without question the Independent Verification Group (IVG) undertook some great assessment work, but when it came down to advocating the protection of Tasmania’s High Conservation Value (HCV) forests the IVG was notably compromised by the resource industry’s influence.

This predictable outcome left big challenges for conservationists to persist with a seemingly endless campaign against an oppressive wave of senseless and wanton forest destruction.

The present squabble within Tasmania seems to be over the 350,000+ hectares of deferred forests. Meanwhile Sustainable Timbers Tasmania (STT, formerly Forestry Tasmania) continue to rip into the Tarkine forests regardless of its heritage values, and lack of a profitable market for the resource.

Take a look at the Tarkines’ Frankland River coupes that are constantly being pursued. These we know are low volume resourced forests in a high conservation area, which encompasses nesting and foraging grounds for endangered species.

The STT 3-year wood production plan clearly shows it is nothing beyond business as usual, and they wonder why they can’t obtain FSC.

It is broadly known that the Tarkine encompasses the largest contiguous tract of rainforest in the nation, and is one of the most extensive tracts of cool-temperate rainforests globally.

Whatever happened to the acknowledgement of UNESCO’s ‘outstanding universal significance’?

It is undeniable that the Tarkine’s superlative rainforest core fulfils the criteria for World Heritage listing. So why didn’t the TFIGA draw a line around it?

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the mining industry’s political influence is the reason why there was a geological consultant appointed to the IVG, just as there was a Forest resource marketer appointed. Neither of these two appointees would have any qualifications regarding HCV forests.

The Tarkine’s rainforest core is a contiguous representation of primitive country encompassed within the Donaldson River, Savage River and Meredith Range wilderness zones, which are only segregated by the Savage/Corinna Road and iron-ore pipeline track.

Any formed vehicle track can lower the wilderness quality of a region, though should not preclude an area from being classed as high conservation, as the listed TWWHA is also subjected to similar incursions.

Wilderness in itself is not a criteria for WHA listing, though that may change in the future as the world’s wilderness areas diminish even further.

Other notable HCV areas that should be excluded from logging and mining are the forests adjacent to the Sumac reserve, the Dempster Plains forests, the Rapid and Roger River catchments, and essentially all the forest expanse, excluding plantations, south of the Savage/Waratah road to the Pieman River, and southwest beyond Corinna towards the coast.

With the inevitable self-destruction of Tasmania’s native forest industry in the foreseeable future, the question remains of how much of this magnificent country will remain unscathed before it is securely reserved?

The challenge for conservationists continues to be arduous.

Ultimately there needs to be a worldwide campaign on Tasmania’s native forest products aimed at ... ‘Tarkine Free Timber’.

A future bumper sticker ... ?

*Ted Mead is still amazed that the last unilateral WHA extension to protect the High Conservation Forests in Tasmania actually happened, given the state’s history on forest exploitation. Fortunately the World Heritage Committee denounced the Liberals’ attempt to open up protected areas to logging, describing the Liberals’ attempt to do so as feeble. Ted believes the Hodgman government’s move to dissolve the TFA has only created more uncertainty within the crippled and moribund native forest logging industry, which will ultimately lead to the remaining vast tracts of forests in the Tarkine being protected for posterity sometime in the future when the state and federal governments do another political/financial trade-off.