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Byron Shire
April 1, 2023

Protester ‘headlocked’ by Whian Whian loggers

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An additional bulldozer is brought into a logging site at Whian Whian this morning (Thursday October 3). Photo Patrick Tatam
An additional bulldozer is brought into a logging site at Whian Whian this morning (Thursday October 3). Photo Patrick Tatam

Chris Dobney

One of two young people seized and held down by loggers at a private property on Whian Whian Road yesterday was treated in hospital last night for injuries to his neck and back in a dramatic escalation of the protest against logging there.

The loggers have been accused of acting like vigilantes by taking the law into their own hands when arresting the two young people.

Police have denied they had advised or ‘coached’ loggers to make the ‘citizen arrests’ which infuriated protesters who accused the loggers of acting like ‘gorillas’ on the property where landowners have recommenced felling.

A police media spokesperson told Echonetdaily they do not encourage anyone to detain people over minor offences such as trespassing.

Around 10 loggers jumped on one of the youngsters at the top of the hill and held him down in a headlock for around 45 minutes till police arrived to help the loggers and took them to the Lismore lock-up,’ Whian Whian Forest Alliance spokesman Patrick Tatam told Echonetdaily.

The two young people have been released after being charged with trespassing.

Mr Tatam said the two youths were ‘falsely accused by the loggers of threatening them with machetes’.

‘It’s unbelievable. There’s nothing we can do. These guys (loggers) acted like gorillas; one of the youngsters suffered bruising to the back of his neck and head as a result,’ he said.

Echonetdaily has sought comment from police.

Despite ongoing protests by concerned locals, a final tranche of already-logged trees was removed under police guard by at least seven jinkers on Tuesday. The logging of the mature blackbutt trees continues apace despite independent investigations proving the proximity of at least five endangered species.

This morning a third heavy bulldozer was escorted by police onto the property.

On Tuesday afternoon the owner of the adjoining property, through which loggers’ trucks had to pass to access the felled trees, tore up an agreement to allow his road to be used.

Mr Tatam said last night that he believed the sounds he could hear from his nearby home could herald the construction of ‘yet another road’ to enable further logging.

He said that the loggers started their chainsaws and bulldozer just before 3pm, and in the space of some 20 minutes had felled at least four very large trees along the ridge area above his neighbouring property.

‘This provoked a reaction among the group of forest protectors who had been camped on the adjoining owner’s property, and a group of them entered the logging property to voice their objections to the Forestry Commission (FC) reneging on their previous advice to cease logging,’ he said.

‘A violent reaction from the loggers resulted in two of the objectors being apprehended in so-called “citizen arrests”: the police down at the bottom entrance to the logging property advised me that they had coached these loggers as to how to carry out such arrests.

‘Following a call from the loggers to Lismore police, the latter promptly despatched at least seven vehicles to the logging property (a distance of some 35 kilometres) to complete the “arrests”.

‘The police were suggesting justification arising from “machetes” being brandished by some of the protectors, vandalising of machinery and other vague accusations.’

Mr Tatam said the accusations were without foundation.

On the weekend, independent biologists, who inspected the property under an agreement between the Alliance and NSW Forestry, reported finding ‘at least five’ endangered species.


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  1. I can’t comment on the arrests only to say this neatly draws attention away from the real issue. If the Government applied its legislative obligations to this issue FCNSW would have completed a survey for threatened species and ecological communities followed by the application of a series of prescriptions to minimize impact on those threatened species and ecological communities. In my opinion the measures they have taken are not sufficient to meet their obligations.

    It shouldn’t be that concerned communities with limited resources/technical knowledge have to resort to demonstrating to get any attention to the issue when it is the state government really at fault. Add on top of that the hijacked toothless ambiguous EPA, police resources allocated and the fact that FCNSW is heavily subsidized at taxpayers’ expense to log forests containing threatened species and it becomes clearer who is at fault. It a deadly serious preconceived multilevel willful neglect of legislative obligations.

    It is a true shame that the plight of threatened species is so often left to people that either do not understand the real implications of their actions or are corrupt. Like the Navy picking up refugees and the soldiers fighting an un-winnable war I empathize with and understand the disparity for police between being upholders of law on one hand and their government duties at Whian Whian on the other.

    Glen Little
    Diploma In Applied Science
    Wilderness Reserves & Wildlife

  2. I hope the forest protectors are well equipped with an array of digital video recorders in order to capture the evidence that will be essential for their personal security and to establish the truth in a court of law, where lies and false accusations can sometimes be hard to discredit in the absence of independent eye-witnesses.

    The violent tactics enthusiastically employed by loggers possibly violate the law and the rights of the forest protectors. A complete video record of the action is absolutely necessary if the forest protectors are to have any hope of protecting themselves from loggers and associated thugs, who typically have little regard for the law and no concern whatsoever for the safety or well being of any who seek to challenge or obstruct the relentless onslaught of the malignant industrial juggernaut.

  3. Sounds like a case of assault to me. Having been the victim of loggers lying about actual events and what they said in their police statements which were then withdrawn before the court case, I can say with confidence that there is conscious collusion between Forestry and loggers and their contractors against any protestors trying to stop their willful ecological vandalism. I can also attest to the fact that loggers use violence and threats of violence routinely against protestors and this latest episode sounds like a case of assault seeing the protestor has ended up in hospital. If I were the protestor I would be demanding the police charge the loggers with assault because they clearly think they are above the law.

  4. @ Glen Little

    Your two points are well made. The Government, otherwise known as Government Corporation, is concentrating on the corporate side of things rather than the governance side. It is prioritising revenue streams over adherence to legislative requirements by allowing a commercial activity, which is under regulation, to proceed, without due diligence being carried out at all levels of the commercial process. Your second point concerning the contingent involvement of under-resourced and perhaps, not optimally informed, members of the citizenry is also on the money. However you have been too understated towards those who have responsibility for this situation developing in the first place. If neglect has occurred then does not a GovCo process exist that indentifies that and applies remedy measures? If impropriety occurs is that not provided for in terms of audit and process management procedures in the regulation.

    It’s all there folks; the rules, the recommendations, the inquiry findings etc. GovCo is forever reviewing itself, at the taxpayer’s expense. At the end of the day though, someone sings off on the go ahead. It’s not a department or a unit that signs. It’s a person; who can be held accountable. Let’s stop talking about departments. Let’s start talking about people. In the case of Whian Whian let’s talk about who, in which department or agency did what, when and if it was contrary to established practice, how and why it was done. Easy ?

    So why isn’t this happening ? Is there a memorandum of understanding somewhere that proscribes such practice ?


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