The finding of two potoroo hairs in the remaining coupes on Survey Road, Errinundra Plateau, has put a halt to forestry operations. Under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act Potoroo Action Statement, the areas where the hairs were found are temporarily protected while further studies are conducted. The potoroos are allocated 450ha, plus or minus 50ha, which can include the National Park but must also incorporate the site where the hairs were found. Survey Road contains cool temperate rainforest and mixed forest, bordering the Errinundra National Park. It is known habitat for the endangered Long Footed Potoroo and the Spot Tailed Quoll.
The coupe which was blockaded and logged in September last year bordered a wildlife corridor and the national park. Only two blocks of forest remain. One coupe, where one of potoroo hairs was found, is situated at the end of the road and is part of the Cobb Hill National Site of Significance.
Activists have tried to save this part of the Errinundra plateau for many years. In 2001, there were protests to stop the continuation of the road from Gunmark road to Errinundra road where the quoll skat was found and identified, In 2002, there were forest protests to stop logging. One of the potoroo hairs was found in the forest block that was logged early 2002. The inadequate surveying conducted by the DSE has resulted in the remaining forest blocks to be segmented from the wildlife corridors and the national park. If found two years earlier, the southern half of the road would still be negligibly disturbed Old Growth forest, instead of a clearfelled wasteland.
Four East Gippsland activists arrested at Survey Rd in January 2002 were given "formal judicial acknowledgement" that they had been motivated by conservation concerns, and were not acting from self-interest, greed or a desire to hurt other. As such it was not appropriate to convict or fine them for their actions. Magistrate Clive Alsop said it was important for people to take a stand if they believe something is right. However, the charges of obstructing forest operations and obstructing a forest officer were too serious to dismiss (as a Judge in the County Court did last November) so he instead gave the four a three month good behaviour bond.
The magistrate said it was not his role to comment on the workings of the government or bureaucracy. However, his finding as vindicated the actions of the numerous people arrested at Survey Rd last year when a last-ditch effort was made to first stop a road into Spot-tailed Quoll habitat and later to stop the logging of this habitat, which contains rainforest and is part of a water catchment.
The outcome of this trial draws even more attention to the disparity in penalties handed out in the Melbourne magistrates court as opposed to the Orbost magistrates court, where people have been known to get fines over $5000 and even suspended jail terms for similar offences.
(thanks to The Age for some of this information)