Do we really need a road through the Tarkine?
I recently read an article about the Tasmanian government’s plan to build a loop road through the Tarkine. This is a rugged and remote part of the island, a wilderness area. It contains a magnificent temperate rainforest, wild rivers and much wildlife. It is an area that draws many hikers and adventurous travellers. It is a special part of Australia.
Being a bit of a walker myself, I can quite understand why there is a lot of opposition to this road. For those of us who like the idea of strapping on a pack and heading off into the wild, there are becoming fewer places we can go. The idea that a road will carry people to within a stone’s throw of these places and will take away the tranquillity that they provide is disturbing - at least to me. A pleasant three-day hike to a waterfall where people can drive to a car park 30 minutes walk away loses its attraction very quickly.
It is easy for a place, through incremental improvements in access, to become a snapshot experience. Take Uluru as an example. While nobody can begrudge the locals the economic benefits of tourism, the place holds little attraction for me now. It is overrun with crowds. Only a few years ago it required a drive of a number of days before you could experience the “rock”. You can now fly into Yulara, take a day or two to look around, and then leave. It is now a box to be ticked off on a shopping list of attractions - been there, done that, here’s the photo to prove it! The sightseeing helicopters and planes that circle Uluru take away the peace that the area might otherwise provide. There is no tranquillity; there is just the regular drone of engines overhead every 15 minutes. I don’t want the Tarkine to go the same way.
The point I’d like to make is that just because we can improve access to an area doesn’t mean that we should bulldoze a road through it, or to it. Leave some places for those with an adventurous spirit. Places where it takes time and effort to travel to. Just because we can get instant gratification, doesn’t mean that we should, and it doesn’t necessarily do us any good. It does not leave any lasting impression and devalues places. It turns them into a souvenir source, a place to pick up a memento before jumping back into the coach or plane. There are plenty of these places already; we don’t need any more.
In addition to this, improving access to the Tarkine will bring with it more problems. Increasing visitor numbers will cause those very attractions that draw them in, to be modified. There will be access requirements, possibly interpretative centres, and the need to restrict access to prevent erosion. These areas will be degraded by such access. They will become less than what they were, and perhaps this is unavoidable in the long run, but leaving access as a challenge reduces the need for modification. It assists in maintaining the integrity of the site.
Just as the less adventurous might not see the remote waterfall or mountain view, the hiker may not see the cathedral or museum. Both might find the journey to these places too hard or just not enjoyable. We should not be afraid of leaving some places as hard to get to.
There are numerous places I haven’t been and, as I get older, the likelihood of me getting to them is decreasing. That is part of life. We live in a big world and we don’t have to see everything. I hope that when I become reliant on using roads to get places, that there are still places for the dedicated hiker to go where peace and quiet can be found.
There are enough formerly wild places where access has been made easy and the experience has been diluted. The road through the Tarkine is unnecessary - leave it to the hikers and the wildlife. The world will be a better place for it.
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