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takayna / the Tarkine

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 24 June 2021

Tags: takayna / Tarkine

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens - Motion) - Mr Speaker, I move -

I move that the House take note of the following matter: takayna/the Tarkine.

Mr Speaker, the takayna were the Aboriginal people of the north-west of Tasmania whose story is embedded in that landscape for tens of thousands of years in the rock depressions, the middens and the form of that beautiful corner of Tasmania. We have decided today to bring on as our first matter of public importance in this place a debate about one of the most remarkable and rare places on Earth, takayna.

According to the Australian Heritage database, takayna covers an area of about 439 000 hectares and, in broad terms, the Tarkine is the area south of the Arthur River, north of the Pieman and bounded to the east by the Murchison Highway. I want to read into the Hansard some of the findings of the Australian Heritage Council in relation to the national heritage values of this extraordinary landscape. This decision came down in February 2013, and I hope that people in this place who only view the Tarkine as somewhere to extract trees from or minerals from or dump toxic tailings in listen to what the Australian Heritage Council has had to say about this place:

The cool temperate rainforest within the Tarkine area is significant for our understanding of evolutionary processes. Tasmania's rainforests represent a living example of one of the most primitive vegetation formations on Earth and those species that remain have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to survive. Most Tasmanian rainforest tree species can clearly be demonstrated to be from around the mid Tertiary and there is a number of rainforest species which the fossil record shows their direct ancestors exceed more than 40 million years.

These rainforests contain flora from families that were once far more diverse and widespread than now. The Tasmanian rainforest is one of the best places worldwide where the effect of climatic change on vegetation during the Cenozoic can be considered in detail. The Tarkine has more caladendrous rainforest, that is rainforest with tall trees and an open park like understorey, than any other areas in Tasmania. With the exception of the Meredith Range, the rainforest area covers most of the eastern two-thirds of the place. Although rainforest does not cover the entire Tarkine area, it is the value that people most associate with the Tarkine. It is the cornerstone value of the place and is strongly related to other identified values.

I commend the Australian Heritage Council's words on the Tarkine to every member in this place. As we know, Mr Speaker, the Tarkine is also one of the world's most significant archeological sites because of the human story that is embedded in that landscape that dates back tens of thousands of years. The council finds that:

Along the coast of the Tarkine a suite of sites, including large and complex middens, stone artefacts, scatters, hut depressions, stone arrangements and petroglyphs provides evidence for this way of life. Aboriginal people also quarried the spongolite at Rebecca Creek inland of the coast to make stone tools.

I just mention in passing that when we were in government we tried to return Rebecca Creek to the First People and it was knocked backed by the upper House.

Right now in the Tarkine there are brave people defending the rainforest from MMG's proposed toxic mine dump and that blockade is now in its thirty-eighth day and we have had 37 people put themselves on the front line and be arrested in defence of takayna. Yesterday we had much-loved Tasmanian author, historian and academic Dr Pete Hay arrested in the Tarkine along with Andrew Kelly, John Button, Ian Terry and Rod Headlam. Pete Hay said:

This is my island; these magnificent forests are my heritage. I reject the claimed right by a company that is foreign owned to priority, especially as there are alternative of where to put this tailings dam.

Andrew Kelly, Tasmanian devil conservation pioneer, said:

I'm trying to stop this blatant, unnecessary and ill-founded proposal. The fact the Commonwealth have not approved the current works speaks to the flawed process.

Mr Button said:

In a few months I will be 70. I am entering grandfather territory. Increasingly I am concerned of the adverse impact of climate change and what this might mean to my children, their children and future generations. Over the course of my lifetime we have collectively done our best to ruin the place, rather than provide proper stewardship.

Mr Headlam said:

I have been on this Earth to be a caretaker of this planet. What is happening here at MMG's proposed tailings dam site is sheer vandalism, a practice I feel I need to do something about.

Mr Anthony Houston, a very well-respected Tasmanian businessman and exporter who was arrested last week, said:

The message that I want to give to all Australians is that it is really important to come and experience what is being lost. You can see it on TV or in a book but it is not the same. I could not believe the ancient trees they are knocking down. They are knocking over more in one day than I could plant in a year. Getting arrested was doing my part to help protect these forests. It is like something from Lord of the Rings and we should not be losing places like this. [all quotes TBC]

Mr Speaker, we had to endure in here the other night Dr Broad writing off the Tarkine proposed tailings dam as 'just 200 hectares'. I will say it again, it takes a certain sort of soullessness to describe a rainforest in that way.