1937 The first formal proposal for the protection of the Tarkine region as a sanctuary for the Tasmanian Tiger.
1967 Circular Head council leads a push for a National Park in the Tarkine.
National Park proposal knocked back by Premier of the time, Eric Reece (who later approved the damming of Lake Pedder in South-West Tasmania), who stated that he didn’t want to see Tasmanian land ‘locked up’ from mineral production and other uses. The area declared the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area instead.
1984 Investigations commence into construction of a road link between Couta Rocks and Corinna.
1985 Construction commences on Couta Rocks-Corinna road, starting from the Arthur River.
1989 Environmental opposition to the road results in the suspension of works. The road is left ending in the middle of wilderness, leading to the epithet the “Road to Nowhere”.
1990 The state government department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage recommends the Tarkine’s inclusion in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recommends the Tarkine’s addition to the World Heritage list, and for the area to be included as a part of the National Park and World Heritage system (recommendation repeated in 1994). The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation develop the first formal World Heritage proposal for the Tarkine.
1994 The Tarkine National Coalition (TNC, currently operating under the trade name Save the Tarkine) formed to co-ordinate opposition to the “Road to Nowhere” and to highlight the need for the Tarkine’s protection. More than 100 people including locals, tourist operators, Aboriginals, politicians and unionists, arrested in protests attempting to halt construction of the road.
1995 Amidst huge controversy, and despite continuing opposition, the construction of the ‘Road to Nowhere’ recommences, and is completed the following year.
2002 The Australian Government formally recognises the outstanding natural and cultural significance of the Tarkine by formally inscribing the Tarkine on the Register of the National Estate.
Forestry Tasmania announces their intention to lift a 20-year long rainforest-logging moratorium, and to commence logging pristine rainforest in the heart of the Tarkine. Tourism operators, locals, scientists and environment groups at a local and national level unite behind the need for the Tarkine to be protected.
2004 TNC completes the most comprehensive proposal for a National Park and Heritage listed area for the Tarkine and present it to State and Federal politicians.
2005 Then Prime Minister, John Howard, and then Tasmanian Premier, Paul Lennon, protect an additional 70,000 hectares of the Tarkine Rainforest in formal and informal reserves.
2007 The Federal government, and then Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, place the Tarkine National Heritage nomination on the Australian Heritage Council’s 2007/08 priority assessment program.
The Australian Senate unanimously passes a motion, supported by all political parties, acknowledging the World Heritage significance of the Tarkine Wilderness.
2010 The independent Australian Heritage Council recommends the permanent addition of the Tarkine to the National Heritage list, ranking it of equal heritage significance as the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Claire National Park.
Two months after the Heritage Council recommendation, the incoming Environment Minister Tony Burke allows the temporary emergency listing to lapse in the face of numerous mining proposals in the Tarkine.
February. Environment Minister Tony Burke ignores the advice of the Australian Heritage Council, listing just 4% of the 433,000 hectares recommended; a 2km wide strip of coastline. Listed for its aboriginal heritage value, this heritage status has not been followed up with any protection for archaeological sites, which continue to be damaged by uncontrolled off-road vehicle use and vandalism.
April-May Save the Tarkine lodges a case in the Federal Court regarding Minister Burke’s decision to grant environmental approval to Shree Minerals’ proposed Nelson Bay River Mine in the Tarkine. The Federal Court rules the approval of the mine invalid, citing the failure of Minister Burke to consider the Approved Conservation Advice for the Tasmanian Devil as required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Justice Marshall issues an injunction against works on the mine.
Venture Minerals’ Riley Creek strip mine approved.
Save the Tarkine lodges an appeal against the approval of the Riley Creek Mine.
July Shree Minerals’ Nelson Bay River mine re-approved by new Minister for Environment, Mark Butler.
August Save the Tarkine and the Wilderness Society commence vigil outside Nelson Bay River mine site.
October Nelson Bay River mine begins construction.
Documents obtained from the EPA by Save the Tarkine under a Right to Information Request reveals that prior to the commencement of mining, Shree notified the EPA that they had underestimated the quantity of acid producing waste rock requiring storage by a factor of twenty times. Despite the original EPA assessment stating acid-producing waste must be stored below ground, the EPA granted permit amendments allowing above-ground storage. Save the Tarkine argue that the greater quantity of acid producing waste and its new storage arrangements pose a great risk to waterways, aquatic life, and surrounding flora and fauna.
Federal Court rules against Save the Tarkine’s Riley Creek case
After just 6 months of production Shree Mineral’s Nelson Bay River mine announce halt in productions.
July Save the Tarkine files an application for Judicial Review in the Supreme Court challenging the amendments made to the Shree Minerals’ Nelson Bay River mine environmental permit. The amendments in question are in regard to the conditions for the storage of acid-producing waste rock.
August Shree Minerals relinquishes Rebecca Creek exploration license in the Tarkine.
Venture Minerals announces that the Riley Creek strip mine in the Tarkine is uneconomic and will not proceed.
Shree Minerals under investigation by the Environment Department relating to contravention of environmental permits at the Nelson Bay River mine in the Tarkine.
December Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre obtains an interim injunction in the Federal Court against the opening of recreational vehicle tracks through Aboriginal heritage sites in the Tarkine.
April Bob Brown Foundation’s Tarkine in Motion project brings 68 photographers, filmakers and artists to the Tarkine.
Minister Harris proposes to open up 61,500 hectares of Tarkine reserves to mining speculators.
Shree Minerals appeals against acid mine waste Environment Protection Notice requirements.
June Riley Creek appeal dismissed.
“Coming down the river we had some lovely sights; trees down to the water’s edge every shade of green, and immense clusters of flowers; bush lilac, beech…… It is a noble river”
– Sprent, travelling down the Pieman River, 1800s.
"The whole extent of coast I have walked this day is bounded by cragged rocks on which the sea was breaking with frightening vehemence."
– George Augustus Robinson, 1833
“There are some who begin to lament that the romantic mystery of Tasmanian fastnesses is being dissipated by the advance of population into the West. I am glad, at all events, that I have walked through places almost in their native state before they became too well known,”
– Bishop Henry Hutchinson Montgomery, Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, 1898.
“The Circular Head Council considers that an area of land should be preserved and set aside as a National Park for recreation by the people in the district and in fact for Tasmanians as a whole.”
– Circular Head Council, 1967.
“The people of Circular Head, and indeed the people of the rapidly developing North-West Coast, look to the wise decision of the Government to set aside land for the benefits of the people now and for future generations who will use this Park.”
– Australian Conservation Foundation, 1967
Header photo by Caitlin Pheasant