South-east forests


Fiona McCrossin

Act now to save south-east forests

The south-east forest campaign aims to stop the woodchipping of the last old growth forests in the south-east of NSW. These represent the last forests to have survived 20 years of woodchipping in the region and part of the less than 10% of old growth forest that survives in Australia after 200 years of clearing.

The South East Forest Protection Bill presented to state parliament will have its second reading and be debated in the September session. The bill will protect as national parks 110,000 hectares of forest between the Brogo wilderness and the Victorian border. This represents just one-third of the forest that makes up Harris Daishowa's woodchipping concession area.

Ninety per cent of all the forest felled in the south-east ends up at the Eden mill, to be chipped and shipped to Japan to make paper.

Australian governments seem incapable of responding to even the most fundamental reasons for conserving these forests.

The ramifications of a recent series of protests, culminating in a blockade to stop trucks loaded with logs from entering the woodchip mill in Eden, was that we were told that we had no right to be there. In a media release, MP Peter Cochran stated, "Many of us look forward to the day when National Service is reintroduced. A year of Army discipline would do the 'Greens' a wealth of good." In an ABC radio interview on July 16, Cochran referred to the protesters as "juvenile terrorists", "liars", "hypocrites" and "lazy layabouts". This abusive and provocative language is not unusual when discussing what the popular media often refer to as "greenies". It is an obvious ploy. By applying derogatory labels to a group, you undermine them as individuals, hoping that you may also undermine their platform.

I find it naive to say the least that a member of parliament can make such statements about those people concerned about the logging of Australia's last forests. It not only denies the diversity of those people concerned with environmental issues but also questions a person's right to speak out against the environmental destruction of their own country. This is a dangerous, if not a new, phenomenon.

The south-east campaign needs your help. The timber industry has initiated a $500,000 campaign which includes the objective of overcoming proposals for an expanded national park network in the south-east forests. The state government's "Natural Resources Management Package" includes proposed legislation that will convert the south-east forests into "Timber Production Forests" in which there will be no independent environmental monitoring or assessment. Nor will endangered species be protected, because the endangered wildlife laws will not apply to such "resource security" forests.

In the last two years, logging has destroyed part of the last 4% of NSW state forest to be in the wilderness condition. Roading and logging threaten the areas of highest conservation value right throughout the south-east. It is crucial to act now. Please contact Fiona or Saul at the South East Forest Alliance, 18 Argyle Street Sydney (the Total Environment Centre in the Argyle Arts Centre) or ring 247 1737.