Forest blockade in third week

March 18, 1998

By Matt Bloor

KOOPALOONA NIARA — Logging has begun in the pristine, sub-alpine, old growth forests of Koopaloona Niara (Mother Cummings Peak) in northern Tasmania, despite a concerted effort by environmentalists to halt the destruction.

For two weeks, blockaders have stalled Forestry Tasmania and North Forest Products from smashing a spur road into the forests to give access to giant eucalypt trees destined for the woodchipper.

The forest coupe, known as "HU307", is one of the last remaining patches of virgin forest in Koopaloona Niara or "Mountains of the Spirits" — part of a national park proposal by the Aboriginal community in the Great Western Tiers. However, Tasmania's recently signed Regional Forest Agreement left the area open for logging.

Work was brought to a standstill for the first week, only a few dozen trees being felled. Blockaders used lock-on devices to stop police and loggers entering through a gate erected by North.

Police were reluctant to make arrests because North's gate was put in without legally closing the area off to recreation. However, as police and the logging companies were increasingly frustrated by the protesters, people were arrested on the tourist road above the gate and within 100 metres of the coupe.

At night tripods, rock walls, lock-on boxes and tree-sits were erected, and dragons (pipes and concrete set so protesters can lock in their arms) were set.

After police removed and arrested these protesters, others ran through the bush as "black wallabies" where the trees were being felled. More police arrived and more arrests were made. Protesters had to endure intimidation from logging contractors firing guns at night.

By March 13, a total of 33 arrests had been made and bail conditions set forbidding protesters to return to the site. Local Aboriginal leader Darlene Mansell was among those arrested.

If you can get to the blockade, ring Tim on 041 962 8709 for details. Support is also needed in donations of money or food. You can also write to the Premier Tony Rundle at Parliament House, Hobart 7000, telling him to stop the logging and withdraw the police from HU307.

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