By Tony Hastings
EAST GIPPSLAND — The chainsaw crews and bulldozers are ripping into Goolengook's rainforest again. Winter has set in, and the road is too boggy to drive log trucks in, so they are building roads — paid for by the Victorian government. Senior forester Gary Featherstone has stated, "Money spent on the bridge and road must be repaid by logging the forest".
The new road will pave the way for access to at least seven logging coupes, in an area which has never before suffered human disturbance. Goolengook is made up of unique rainforest with cool and warm temperate species coexisting in an "overlap" rainforest.
Environmentalists blockaded Goolengook in January, but on June 6 police arrested all present bar one activist, who was ordered to pack up the camp. Almost every day since, crews of activists have been re-entering Goolengook to stop the trashing of the forest.
There have been almost 100 arrests so far. Those who have been tried have received a $1000 fine for each charge of "obstruction of a legal forest operation". The majority of cases will be heard on August 21.
Some blockaders are pleading not guilty on the grounds that they were not obstructing but in fact having lunch beside the creek outside of the coupe boundary when they were arrested.
Others are contesting the legality of the logging on the grounds that Goolengook is a national biological site of significance, fulfils the criteria of the regional forest agreement (RFA) for reservation, and logging proceeded unlawfully while people were in the path of falling trees.
Goolengook is proof that the RFA has failed: it has not protected forest; it has not provided industry security; and it has not resolved the conflict.
The entire RFA process should be reviewed and either scrapped or done properly to provide the "comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve" that the government claims it is creating.