Destination: Tasmania – Oz’s “Island of Inspiration”

With the recent heart-stopping news of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef having lost half of its coral in less than 30 years, Down Under’s eco-tourism industry needs something to cheer it up. Enter Tasmania.

pic: Gary Stockton (Flickr CC)

The island state of Tasmania is being named Australia’s 15th National Landscape in an effort to boost nature and eco-tourism. Tasmania joins the Australian Alps, the Red Centre, the Blue Mountains, the Great Ocean Road and the Wet Tropics among other Australian hotspots.

The grouping together of national parks and landscapes into larger regions is a way to simplify the marketing of Australian eco-tourism.

From the Australian:

Overseas visitors cite the natural environment as the key reason for holidaying in Australia, but there is concern that many are deterred by the myriad competing nature-based destinations. Australia has more than 600 national parks, a high number by global standards with the US having 57 and Canada 41.

Tasmania is already known as the “Natural State” and “Island of Inspiration” due to its large areas of virtually pristine nature. 37% of the island is made up of national parks, nature reserves and World Heritage Sites. It is the location of Australia’s largest remaining single tract of Gondwanan rainforest, meaning that this forest is primordial, with origins dating back to before the two super continents of the Earth fragmented into eventually what we have today. Gondwana included most of the southern hemisphere plus the Indian subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula.

Due to its genetic and geographical isolation, the flora and fauna of Tasmania is unique as well as extremely diverse. It is home to regions which are classified as alpine and temperate rainforest with an overall oceanic climate. A variety of reefs border the island with smaller islets and atolls off the coasts. Though some of Tasmania’s unique species have perished, such as the marsupial Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger, it is still home to the largest carnivorous marsupial, the famed Tasmanian Devil, currently threatened by an unfortunate ailment called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) disease.

So how genuinely “eco-friendly” will the promotion of nearly all of Tasmania into a National Landscape be?

The leader of the Australian Green Party, Christine Milne, just happens to be from Tasmania. She voiced her concerns regarding her state’s new status, stating that while she appreciated the recognition of her home state’s natural beauty, she hoped it would be appreciated authentically. Milne is skeptical of Australia’s Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, claiming he is eager to promote Tasmania’s natural beauty, but not prepared to protect it.

Other environmental groups joined the senator in voicing their concern about how protected the island’s nature in fact is.

Pic: Broken Piggy Bank (Flickr CC)

From AAP:

Environment groups say the Tarkine – a unique Aboriginal site and the second largest tract of temperate rainforest in the world – is under threat from a number of mining projects seeking licenses to expand exploration of the wilderness area. Activist group GetUp, among others, has been lobbying Mr Burke to formally award the Tarkine National Heritage status to protect the region from mining interests.

And how will the promotion of Tasmania as an eco-tourist destination change the Island of Inspiration? Well, since its located in the ocean south of Australia, which means it’s quite far from pretty much everywhere, don’t expect to see Tasmania thronged with tourists, backpackers and overweight Americans with hip sacks/fanny packs. As a travel journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald put it way back in 2002:

If Tasmania were off the coast of the US or northern Europe you wouldn’t be able to move for all the tourists revelling in its natural beauty. Fortunately for us, it’s not – so exploring its renowned wilderness remains a treasured experience.