Proposed road threatens Tassie wilderness



Waterfall in Tarkine wilderness, tasmania

Waterfall in Tarkine wilderness, Tasmania. The proposed heritage area is threatened by the development of a new road.

Credit: iStockphoto

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Tasmania's Tarkine wilderness is being tipped as the next Kakadu or Daintree but its future as a premier wilderness tourism destination will be in jeopardy if a proposed road through the region goes ahead.

The state-owned Forestry Tasmania has a plan for a 132km sealed loop road to showcase Australia's largest temperate rainforest. The project was allocated $23 million in this year's state budget.

However, conservationists and tourism operators have expressed dismay at the government's determination to fast-track the road and fear it will destroy the very asset it is designed to promote.

Tarkine Trails takes bushwalkers into the region on multiple-day hikes. Owner Mark Davis said the road would cut through the forest just 2.5km from the walking trail.

"It is really going to destroy main forest track," he said. "The noise will travel and adversely impact on the wilderness experience."

Tarkine Trails had plans to establish demountable campsites for its six-day walk. "We have investors sitting in the wings who will no longer be interested," Mr Davis said. "If the road gets put through we will more than likely pull the plug on our business. It will destroy the wilderness values."

The Tarkine, which is being considered for national and world-heritage listing, is protected to varying degrees under a patchwork of state, regional and forest reserves, conservation and recreation areas.

More than 70,000ha were protected following the 2004 federal election, but rather than be declared a national park, the new reserve is under the management of Forestry Tasmania.

Wilderness Society forest campaigner Vica Bayley said the loop road would cut through kilometres of untouched rainforest. It posed significant environmental risk due to fires, diseases and invasive feral species and poaching of threatened species such as tree ferns. It raised the risk of vandalism of aboriginal shell middens and rock carvings. Sealing the road would increase vehicle speeds dramatically.

"Road kill will increase, particularly the Tasmanian Devil," Bayley said.

"To have a good conservation outcome and then have a road proposed is a perverse result," he said. "It points to the need for full national parks under the National Parks and Wildlife Service rather than forest reserves under Forestry Tasmania."

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