After twelve weeks of planning and three days of bush building, Woodstop kicked off with the seizure of a Department bulldozer. As last minute camp constructions were erected, up the road a DNRE roading dozer was taken hostage. People worked day and night welding lock-ons, building tripods and a treesit attached by cable to the dozer. It was a construction that kept local police and search rescue teams baffled for over a week. Two days into the siege, the dozer played host to a techno party, during which the 'discodozer' was born. Throughout the activists' weekend, GECO kitchen rocked, providing luscious vegan organic food for the masses.
Woodstop provided the opportunity for people to exchange ideas, learn new skills, take part in direct action and brainstorm possibilities for the '99 East Gippy campaign. A group of international delegates visited Woodstop on their ten day tour of East Gippsland and SE NSW forests. One of whom, Dr Leonie van der Maesen a Geomorphologist, inspected the Goolengook block, and was "absolutely stunned at the total destruction of this magnificent forest".
Following Woodstop, on Monday 7 December, three simultaneous blockades
were set up in areas across East Gippsland. Combienbar Rd was the first
to be busted….
Combienbar Road Action
Approximately twenty people arrived in the night intending to close a
section of Combienbar Rd near Club Terrace, a major access route for
log jinkers going to the Errinundra Plateau. We set up warning signs at
either end of the road and constructed a treesit attached by cables to
a tripod halting access through. Three unloaded trucks backed up
demanding to pass to collect their daily load of old growth logs. They
threatened to pull down the treesit and joked around in an agro mood.
Two others were arrested for trying to break through the coppers and
jump onto loaded trucks coming the other way. During all this constable
Valentine canaried practically all our vehicles.
Centre Rd Blockade
We woke up to the sound of a chainsaw at 6 o'clock in the morning. Three DNRE workers cut down our campsite, and took a metre off a leg of the tripod-bipod which was blocking the road. Someone managed to scramble up the bipod as it was being cut, and miraculously the structure stood standing (lopsided). The cops rocked up a couple of minutes later, just in time to miss the chainsaw antics of the DNRE. The police drew a line in the road, on the border between the clearfell and the old growth. We were told to stand on the side of the forest. The cops, DNRE and loggers stood in the clearfell. The contrast couldn't have been more stark.
Centre Rd is the largest , most apocalyptic area of clearfell that I've ever seen. Logged coupes stretch side by side as far as the eye can see, all along the border of Errinundra National Park. And then the clearfell stops. Old growth cool temperate rainforest, with amazing gullies of tree ferns, sassafras and huge eucalypts. That's where we were camped, blocking a track which had just been cut for a new coupe.
The cops brought in a bulldozer and a crane. They cut a track around the structure and pulled two people off the tripod-bipod. It took about two hours for them to clear the road. Four other people were also arrested. Both the police and DNRE acted recklessly with disregard for the safety of protesters. Back at the station police refused to take down protesters complaints of police violence and misconduct.
The DNRE is deliberately clearing high conservation old growth forest
all along the borders of Errinundra National Park, in order to stop the
borders of the park being extended. At the current rate of clearing,
the entire border will be logged and burnt over the next two years.
Blockades like Centre Rd can only be effective in stopping this
destruction if they have strong numbers and mass support. Now really is
the time to get involved, and help protect the magnificent old growth
rainforest of the Errinundra plateau.
14 December 98
We arrived just before daybreak. Two people locked-on to one conveyor-belt, two people locked-on to the main-engine room, and two locked-on to the chip conveyor-belt. Two jinker drivers arrived and pleaded to collect their chips. They were refused and left shortly. Slowly mill workers started to arrive, including Bob Humphries, the owner of the mill. The situation escalated to violence, with Bob punching an activist in the mouth and splitting his lip. Another activist was hosed down repeatedly by a mill worker, on the directions of his boss. A third was grabbed by the throat and shoved, once again by our friend Bob. Bob informed his workers that he would pay any fines they may incur through physically abusing activists.
Eventually one cop turned up, and stood around looking useless. Bob threatened to turn on the machinery, which would have maimed the lock-ons. We left shortly after when it became clear that the police would not mediate nor aid in diffusing the situation. After all there was only one of them. Furthermore, we did not have the numbers to hold the mill for the rest of the day, being equalled in number by a bunch of aggressive mill workers. The action was closed by an activist giving Bob a speech that even his workers stopped to listen to.
Hammonds Rd Action
West Errinundra bordering the National Park
Loggers, DNRE, Police, FPS, the rescue squad, jinker drivers and
mechanics arrived at approx four p.m. with a highly strategic plan.
There was only ten of us and thirty Goons of the woodchipping industry
around us, all taking sneaky photos and video cameras rolling while we
were locked on. Mechanics removed the two dozer lock ons, police
liaison and support were denied access into the area. The log loader
arm was lowered and the other two lock ons dangerously extracted from
the loader. The treesit cable was precariously lifted up, squeezing the
cherry picker through and reaching our man at the top. We were all
arrested and charged about four kilometres away. The camp was packed up
and logging started immediately.
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