By Tracy Sorensen
SYDNEY — In a new victory for environmentalists, the NSW government lost its appeal on November 1 against the Land and Environment Court's ruling that logging in the north coast Chaelundi state forest would be in breach of wildlife protection laws.
The appeal decision showed "we were right to block the roads, we were right to put our bodies on the line, in pipes, up trees, up tripods, we were right to defend our natural heritage", conservationist John Corkill, who took the original court action against the Forestry Commission, told Green Left.
"All the scorn that was poured on the blockaders and the North East Forest Alliance when they stood there to defend endangered species is now shown to have been shallow and poorly placed."
He said that the original ruling had been a "plain and simple interpretation" of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The court victories were not the result of "fancy legal footwork."
The Liberal-National government's response, on the other hand, relied on just such an approach. In the wake of the September 25 Land and Environment Court ruling, it passed a regulation, without public consultation, which exempted forestry and a range of other economic activities from the state's wildlife protection laws.
This, said Corkill, was a "sneaky back door tactic. We are very concerned that that small legal window does not stay open. This is a disgraceful thing for the Greiner-Murray government to have done."
The regulation is likely to be disallowed in state parliament.
The Appeals Court decision, said Corkill, was a great fillip to an ongoing campaign to save all the tall old-growth forests in the north-east, which were important habitats for threatened species.
The environmentalists will now focus their attention on stopping the exemption regulation, and the creation of comprehensive threatened species conservation legislation. While this legislation was being drafted, an interim bill would be introduced by Labor MLA Pam Allen.
"Crucial now has to be the destructuring of the archaic Forestry Act of 1916, and a comprehensive and multidisciplinary ecological approach to forest management in NSW for the 1990s and beyond", said Corkill. "There's a real debate that needs to happen about what we do on this planet and how we affect the other 99.9% of creation."