Forest Conflicts Await Resolution
Forest controversy continues to rage this week in Far East Gippsland, both in the bush and in court.
A blockade on the Errinundra Plateau preventing government roading into forest known to contain the critically endangered Spot-tailed Quoll enters its seventh day, and conservationists are still awaiting minister Sherryl Garbutt's response to their demands for adequate protection for this species facing extinction.
Over the weekend, respected Botanist Kevin Theile visited the site and found that "substantial areas of some of the scheduled coupes are of high conservation value as well as prime Spot-tailed Quoll habitat and definately should not be logged."
"Community volunteers are the only ones looking for quolls in logging areas. And now with this blockade protesters are doing the government's job by stopping logging where Quolls are found" said Fiona York, spokesperson for the protesters.
As a result of a meeting between the protesters in the forest and Head Forester Kendra Dean, Natural Resources & Environment fauna experts now say they will look at the site early next week. However, the meeting proved unsatisfactory, leaving conservationists wondering how many more blockades it will take for NRE to do their job properly. " If they can't log without destroying endangered species then logging is unsustainable "said Fiona York. "This is not the first time breaches of the Code of Forest Practice have been found in this area. The NRE last year failed to enforce a buffer on rainforest in an adjacent logged coupe."
Meanwhile, twenty one local men are in court on riot charges relating to an attack on the nearby Goolengook Forest non-violent protest camp in the area last February. The men are alleged to have participated in the most violent attack on activists on record in Australia to date, putting one man in hospital and causing an estimated $30,000 worth of property damage. The committal hearing continuing this week in Bairnsdale magistrate's court will determine whether the evidence against them is strong enough to warrant a jury trial later this year. Riot charges carry a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.
In court this week, Sergeant Terry Bradford, formerly of Orbost Police Station, spent three days under cross-examination in regards to his positive identification of several of the alleged participants in the riot at Goolengook last year. As the policeman in attendance that night, he has testified to having recognized several people whom he has known for eight years or more, some carrying "black baton-like objects," walking away from the scene where a Canadian tourist was severely beaten and the protest camp destroyed.
Other policemen gave testimony placing several of the alleged participants near the scene, and the victims have testified to the details of the assault. Closing arguments from prosecutors for the Office of Public Prosecutions and from the seven member team defending the twenty one men, are expected on Tuesday.
"This shocking incident painfully illustrates the escalation of the conflict surrounding the logging issue. It is imperative that the government acts decisively to resolve this situation in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainably manner", stated spokesperson Mo Harris.
18 January 2001
"Quoll Habitat Blockade Into It's Third Day"
In East Gippsland protestors continue their blockade of Department of Natural Resources and Environment's roading machinery; into it's third day. 75 protestors, with some tourists from 10 countries across the globe including Japan, Burma, Mexico, El Salvador, Holland, Germany, US, Uk and Slovakia are currently involved in the protest.
The blockade is using tactics never before seen in East Gippsland and protestors claim they are not leaving until the critically endangered Spot Tail Quoll habitat is protected .
In an unprecedented move, protestors yesterday released a private contractors roading machine, under the provision that he would not return to the area. "From this situation it seems clear that the N.R.E.
are forcing contractors into unexpected controversial situations" Rena from Goongerah Environment Center.
"Instead of managing our forests for the future it is the department of natural resources and environment who are allowing the destruction of our native species habitat and Rainforest. For this reason we are targeting the roading machinery to force them to take responsibility for their negligence." Said Rena
So far police have charged seven people with obstruction, more arrests are expected.
*** Media Release ***
Sixty protesters halt roading
into endangered Quoll habitat
Tuesday 16 January 2000
This afternoon in East Gippsland 60 people have halted a government roading operation on the border of the Errinundra National Park. The road allows access for logging of rainforest in which the nationally endangered Tiger Quoll has recently been identified.
"It is absurd that the taxpayer is funding roads allowing the destruction of habitat for endangered species, not to mention rainforest", said Michelle van Gerrevink from the Goongerah Environment Centre. "We are calling on the government to place a moratorium on roading and logging operations pending the completion of an adequate Management Plan for the Tiger Quoll."
This action coincides with the court case in Bairnsdale for 21 local men charged in relation to the violent assault on conservationists at Goolengook last year.
"We will not be intimidated by violence. We will continue to defend our right to protest against the destruction of rainforest and critical habitat." Ms Gerrevink concluded.
The demonstration will feature music and art highlighting serious issues in a light-hearted and peaceful way.
This action follows a four day arts festival at Goongerah attended by over 500 visitors from across the country and overseas.