East Gippsland’s forest blockades 05-06

One of the main reasons for blockading logging is to generate media and alert the public to what is happening in their own forests. The ’05-06 summer was a great success with plenty of blockades and good media coverage. We hear the protests have even been noticed in Spring Street.

All up 12 protests were carried out this summer by a passionate crew of tree sitters, GECO and Chipstop. After nearly 13 years of blockading, the bumps are pretty well ironed out and they present a good challenge for police and DSE to dismantle. In response, DSE invents new dirty tricks and the government introduces new laws to try and stymie protesters. But every year – young blood arrives to help and old blood teaches them the ropes. By late-February there had been 31 arrests.

New exclusion zones tested
In December there were four actions – three in Cobon and one in Goongerah’s forests. There were no arrests.

In early January, 10 people were arrested under the new laws that prohibit the public from entering logging areas. They blockaded the Cobon coupe again and are yet to appear in court. As well, two planned logging areas in the Yalmy forests and Goongerah’s water catchment had their access roads blockaded. Those two road blockades effectively stopped five logging coupes from being started. A 30 metre high tree platform in one area and various devices and tree platforms in the other stopped machines entering and working.

In support of the East Gippy actions and closer to the centre of power and media, conservationists in Melbourne set up a tree platform on a busy roundabout in Carlton.

A week later in mid January, 24 people stopped logging in an old growth coupe north of the Errinundra National Park near Bendoc. Two locked themselves onto logging machines that were destroying trees of immense girth. That was broken up fairly quickly by police and DSE. Three people were arrested.

The next blockade saw 15 people set up another road block into a logging area in the Martins Creek forests. That stopped trucks getting into at least five old growth logging coupes for a while.

Woodchip mill action
The tenth protest action was a little different because fires were raging around the state. To avoid industry groups criticising protesters with claims of “locking up emergency equipment and personnel when they should be out there fighting fires” the protests were taken across the border. Friends from Chipstop in the SE of NSW helped occupy the evil Eden export woodchip mill. The chipmill already has an electric fence identical to those that secure Long Bay Gaol, Silverwater and a number of military establishments. But since the previous protester ‘incursion’ last year, the mill has strengthened fortifications. It now has a strip of 30cms wide and 30cms deep concrete buried under the entire fence of several kilometres and must have cost them a small fortune. But what the heck when they make over $6 million a year from pirating out forests. Four people locked onto loading machinery and were given high pressure water treatment by chipmill workers. Being a 39o day it was quite considerate of them.

The lock-on spots were strategically chosen. Without the giant log loaders, everything stops. Truckie radios could be heard taking the piss out of the mill for letting the greenies in again. All were arrested later in the day.

And there’s more … Yet another protest action was in the headwaters of the Bonang River in two highly controversial areas of National Estate old growth that adjoin the Errinundra National Park. This move was seen as highly provocative considering there were talks going on with government at the time over protecting important rainforest areas like this. Fifteen people blockaded the road leading to the coupes and others locked onto machinery. DSE arrested two people after work was halted for four days. The discovery of Victoria’s biggest tree in Result Creek (see Potoroo No 179) was just next to these old growth forests being logged. Two were arrested and charged with failing to obey an officer.

Until Mr Bracks protects our forests, there will be no let up in public unrest and non-violent protests.

Jill

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