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March 21, 2023

Recent Whian logging a tragic legacy

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We have moved into a new era of even more unclear and inadequate environmental protection – and no voice for local people about the protection of nature and their own communities.

I watched daily as the debacle at Whian Whian unfolded and stayed in touch with friends who live in the community of Whian Whian.

Highly qualified ecologists had identified prime koala habitat and a number of serious problems with the harvest plan and its implementation on private land that adjoins the Nightcap National Park.

There was a frontline group of peaceful negotiators who were working day and night with FCNSW, the EPA and the police to create protection for the threatened species, their waterways and habitat and the safety of all concerned.

The EPA have little credibility when it comes to proper regulation of these breaches, and it then becomes another community responsibility to supply proper independent and qualified information, which should be taken into consideration.

When the agreements and trust between these groups were broken and logging recommenced, the NSW police should have recognised the potential for people who were not part of the Whian Whian community to act outside the group and they should have immediately stopped the operation until a proper resolution was brokered and everyone’s safety was ensured.

Instead, they gave the FCNSW contractors the powers of citizen arrest, and violence towards forest protectors ensued, causing two people to be brutally restrained and to suffer further alleged injuries.

One of these cases was heard at Lismore Court last week and the judge was heard to comment that he was disturbed that the forest protectors’ liberty had been removed by these workers acting as police.  The case will resume in January 2014.

This is one of the first examples of the NSW government’s new private vegetation laws at work and we see the tragic results. The overarching principle of this new system is profit and economic considerations and, with the removal of third-party rights, there is no avenue for any reasonable objection.

Logging is a high-risk occupation, and it is only WorkCover who can reveal the circumstances that caused tragic loss of life during this logging operation that proceeded in haste.  Additionally, sweeping new changes to the planning laws have occurred, removing or weakening all of the State Environmental Planning Protections, leaving no clear plan for environmental protection of water, land, wildlife or forests and no opportunities for local communities to have a voice. The courts are the only avenue remaining to tell the story.

Forestry and CSG issues will cause ordinary citizens to leave their jobs of teaching and nursing, and so many other occupations such as doing the washing and making dinner, to stand on a picket line to save forests and agricultural land. This is not governance; it is tyranny.

Caroline Joseph, Bellingen


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