The Greens and conservation groups have condemned the forcible ending of a forest blockade in a high-use koala area near Bellingen after 30 days of sit-ins and lock-ons prevented the removal of old-growth logs.
The Sunny Corner blockade had been in operation for nearly five weeks and had successfully prevented large logging machinery gaining access to high-value koala habitat in Gladstone State Forest.
Gladstone is contained within the proposed Great Koala National Park, and the blockade was triggered by the finding of hundreds of koala scats in 2017 highlighting the importance of the area for koalas.
National Parks Association CEO, Alix Goodwin said, the need for the Great Koala National Park was now ‘self-evident’.
How would we react if the Ugandan Government logged gorilla habitat, or the Chinese Government logged panda habitat? Yet, for some reason, the NSW government appears to be indifferent to logging koala habitat.
‘There is something wrong when a country like Australia allows logging to occur in an area of forest that has been clearly demonstrated to be occupied by koalas,’ Ms Goodwin said.
‘How would we react if the Ugandan Government logged gorilla habitat, or the Chinese Government logged panda habitat?
‘Yet, for some reason, the NSW government appears to be indifferent to logging koala habitat, despite koala populations in northern NSW plummeting over the last 20 years.
‘It is a national shame that the commonwealth koala conservation strategy lapsed in 2014, and we’re still waiting for the NSW koala strategy after the NSW recovery plan lapsed in 2013,’ Ms Goodwin said.
North Coast-based Greens MP Dawn Walker condemned the move in state parliament yesterday, describing it as ‘a peaceful community response to an outdated and destructive government approach to managing our precious forests’.
‘The government knows they can’t win the public relations battle over logging, so they have to bring in police and threaten peaceful protestors with arrest to get their way,’ Ms Walker said.
‘The fact that vital koala habitat can be lawfully logged in this day and age is as stupid as it is outrageous.
‘I congratulate the community for taking a stand to try and stop logging operations as the Government is clearly beholden to big logging interests.
‘The NSW Liberal-Nationals are a party of environmental vandals who have no ability to see the massive tourism potential that would come from protecting these forests in a new Great Koala National Park.
‘The Greens will be doing everything we can to make the need for Great Koala National Park an issue in the upcoming state election to be held in March next year’ said Dawn Walker MP.
Ms Goodwin said her group stood with the community members ‘who have risked arrest and heavy fines for the last month’ and called on the environment minister to ‘gazette the Great Koala National Park immediately’.
We know that protected areas protect species, and we know that koalas like big trees and mature forests.
‘We must protect koala habitat if we are to have any chance of reversing recent population declines,’ Ms Goodwin said.