Forest victories in Weld, South Sister

April 20, 2005

Alex Bainbridge, Hobart

Forest campaigners have won important, albeit partial, victories in the Weld Valley and at South Sister. These wins are significant given the disappointment following the re-election in October of the pro-logging Howard government.

On March 21, Forestry Tasmania announced it would not begin logging the area around the South Sister peak near St Marys on Tasmania's east coast before a June hearing by the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal. Previously, the RMPAT had found that local community members opposing the logging had a legitimate case to be heard. Forestry Tasmania had been threatening to commence logging prior to the hearing.

On April 15, South Sister campaigner Frances Daily told Green Left Weekly that forest protection activists are very confident of a win at the hearing. The Environmental Defenders Office is going to represent the campaigners and Daily said "we now have two barristers — experienced and prominent environmental lawyers — who will assist pro bono at the hearing".

More information about the South Sister campaign can be found by visiting <>.

Forest campaigners in the Weld Valley won a victory on April 7 when Forestry Tasmania signed a written agreement that it would not do any roading or forest clearing on the north side of the Weld Valley for six months.

The agreement was made after Forestry Tasmania wanted to burn the remains of a clear-felled coupe near the site of a blockade that had been maintained since January. For safety reasons, the burning could not take place while the blockade camp remained intact.

Activists were not willing to leave the camp without a written guarantee that no roading would take place. This was because the location of the blockade camp was strategically significant — the proposed logging road that would open up much of the Weld Valley had to pass that point. The Weld Valley is adjacent to a designated world heritage area and itself has world heritage values.

Forestry Tasmania threatened to use police to dismantle the blockade by force but obviously judged that the political cost would be too high.

Weld blockade activist Rob Sheehan told GLW that this was the "first big victory in the Weld Valley — we've basically stopped the road for nine months", from January to September.

Sheehan also said that blockaders "found significant indigenous sites along the proposed road site and in particular in three coupes" scheduled for logging.

The South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre is "keen to come and look at these sites, as are the heritage council", Sheehan said.

He added said that activists will use the next six months to build support and prepare for the campaign that will be needed by September. A variety of activities are planned including an art exhibition currently displayed at the Republic Bar in Hobart and another exhibition planned for September.

One feature of the campaign that has contributed to its success has been the weekly support actions in Hobart organised by activists from the Huon Environment Centre.

The campaign to save Tasmania's old-growth forests received an additional boost on March 28 when Sarah Gunn publicly slammed Gunns Limited and accused the company of "exploiting Tasmania's forests". Sarah Gunn is a great granddaughter of Gunns founder Thomas Gunn.

From Green Left Weekly, April 20, 2005.
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