Last week in the Gibberagee State Forest, 74-year-old Alan Roberts locked on to logging equipment in an effort to halt the destruction of koala habitat.
‘I locked on at 5.30am, needing a head torch to find the gear stashed nearby in the bush,’ says Alan. ‘This was just before their fuel truck came barrelling along intending to turn up the road to the logging operation but instead went past the turnoff, did a fast three-point turn and sped back, without pausing to admire the tripod with activist flag atop.’
Alan says he stayed attached until noon. ‘Dale (McLean, Forestry’s Harvesting Manager) and his forestry offsider turned up, along with Brett, an FEDC logging machine operator, sometime after 8am.
‘Dale’s initial approach was “someone your age should have more sense than to lock on” and accused a woman, with 40 years of international activism experience, of turning up at her first blockade!
‘Initial discussions were about Forestry’s failure to comply with various aspects of their Threatened Species License (TSL), past history of Forestry reneging on agreements etc. For a start they were champing at the bit and fretting about the bark setting hard on logs not yet debarked but that transitioned into a more relaxed conversation about forestry and climate change, better use of wood, alternative less carbon intensive building materials than steel and concrete.
‘In between they walked away to spend long sessions on their phones.
‘Dale was handed a 65 page book detailing our audit of Gibberagee current logging breaches and promised to read that. But they refused to negotiate a guided tour of their breaches while I was locked on and I refused to unlock until they agreed to investigate their breaches.
‘Eventually Dailan (Pugh) was able to get an undertaking that they would go for a tour of their breaches within a week and have a look at the Koala high use tree before they left.
‘We and Forestry parted on genuinely friendly terms.’
NEFA’s Dailan Pugh says that two years ago, after their first audit in Gibberagee, the EPA invited NEFA into the forest to be shown the breaches we had found, though when they got there, the Forestry Corporation gatecrashed and ordered them out of the forest and wouldn’t let NEFA show the EPA the breaches.
‘While we still can’t be sure that the EPA found all the breaches we identified back then, in response to our complaints in January 2019 the EPA issued the Forestry Corporation with two Official Cautions for failing to appropriately mark the exclusion zones for the endangered Narrow-leaved Melichrus and roading and logging within them, and two Formal Warnings for failing to select appropriate recruitment trees and causing unnecessary damage to 23 retained hollow-bearing and recruitment trees.
‘We are still waiting for the EPA to respond to our second complaint 7 months later where we found the same type of breaches continuing.
‘Our aim of getting a site inspection this time is show both Forestry and the EPA the breaches and explain to them their importance, hopefully to try and convince the Forestry Corporation to comply with their Threatened Species Licence.’
The protesters are still awaiting the promised meeting – negotiations about that are moving slowly.