Tarkine back what’s mine

Reporter: Camille Gower

Art and altruism are key with Art for Action, a fundraiser held to support the Wilderness Society’s campaign against proposed mining in northwest Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest.

Proposed mines are expected to boost an economy struggling with high unemployment rates, but environmentalists warn of the dangers of short term thinking, claiming sustainable options will provide a longer term solution.

This story is part of a summer podcast series produced by journalism students from RMIT University: read more about the project.


CAMILLE GOWER: Live music and local art were the main attraction for grassroots fundraising event Art For Action held this sunny afternoon at Brunswick’s Retreat Hotel.

Paintings, prints and photography were sold to raise funds to support the Wilderness Society in campaigning against the proposed open cut iron ore mines in northwest Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest.

Every drop of beer and hint of cheer was part of the effort to protect the Tarkine, a nationally significant wilderness region, and save its wildlife including the endangered and iconic Tasmanian Devil.

Art for Action co-organiser Patrick Meagher said the Wilderness Society’s work in protecting the Tarkine has become more relevant, with the current government’s focus away from renewable energy and toward mining. He says the eco-tourism industry would be a more sustainable way to stimulate the economy.

PATRICK MEAGHER: It’s up to people like the Wilderness Society who lobby the government and they negotiate with the government to get these things in place where they protect natural environments and I think there can’t be any middle ground with something like this, especially with this issue because the middle ground isn’t going to get you anywhere, it’s just going to mean more destruction for natural wilderness areas.

And so if you’re not standing behind something really strongly that you believe in, then you’re going to fall by the wayside and nothing’s going to get done.

CAMILLE GOWER: With unemployment in northwest Tasmania at an all time high, pro-mining groups say the investment in mines for the area is the only viable option to support the local economy, But the Wilderness Society’s Kevi Sanyu disagrees.

KEVI SANYU: You have these communities become really really dependent on these mines, but mines have a lifetime. We’re digging up a finite source – once the mine shuts down, the surrounding towns are ghost towns, because there’s nothing else around. You either have to mine more, because that’s where you put all your eggs or you’re just left with nothing.

CAMILLE GOWER: Rather than providing the expected economic boost, Kevi says more mines in the region will cause artificial inflation, forcing rent and food prices up and driving the local people out. He says supporting and promoting tourism in the area will make for more viable and sustainable alternatives.

KEVI SANYU: When you have an article in CNN travel saying it’s the number one rainforest in the world, that’s what people want to see.

CAMILLE GOWER: With future mining proposals underway and rainforest areas internationally still dwindling at an alarming rate, the Wilderness Society and Art for Action say more long-term goals need to be made, rather than short term solutions.

Fundraising, campaigning and bringing creative folk together to raise awareness of the issue is one way that these groups hope to stimulate new solutions and come up with more sustainable ways to both support the economy and to save the trees.

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