Police break up Weld Valley blockade


On November 15, 60 police raided Camp Weld, a blockade that has for over a year prevented logging in Tasmania's majestic Weld Valley.

The area was immediately declared an exclusion zone, extending 500 metres either side of Eddy Road, where the camp site had been. Jenny Weber from the Huon Valley Environment Centre said the actions of the police and the partially privatised Forestry Tasmania will "open up the forest to destruction".

The Weld Valley, on the fringes of Tasmania's World Heritage Area, is largely comprised of tall, old-growth forest and is rich in biodiversity. The Lower Weld Valley was listed as high-conservation value in the original Regional Forest Agreement and has been registered with the National Estate, but the federal government's forestry industry package did not list it for protection. The valley provides habitat for the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, and the Lower Weld contains some of the tallest eucalyptus obliqua documented in Tasmania.

Camp Weld featured the magnificent "Weld Ark", a pirate ship constructed on a logging road (Eddy Road) that Forestry Tasmania plans to extend deep into the Weld Valley. Should this be achieved, a further 2000 hectares will become accessible for logging. The Weld Ark has been dismantled and 150 metres of road have been bulldozed since the raid.

Tasmania's ancient forests are being logged, woodchipped and burned at an unprecedented pace, and replaced with quick-growing monoculture plantations to feed the timber industry. The Tasmanian Labor government and Liberal opposition support this practice.

News of the bust sparked a number of protests. On November 16, 50 people entered the exclusion zone, walking past police lines to survey the damage. Four people managed to halt logging activity by sitting on a bulldozer.

In Melbourne, conservationists gathered at the Collins Street office of Tourism Tasmania to protest at the logging of Tasmania's ancient forests. In Hobart, 20 people blocked a log truck on November 15; two people chained themselves to the front of the truck. The November 16 Mercury reported that the two "will face proceedings for the offence of committing a nuisance". The irony is startling.