Woodchip protest at Bunbury

Issue 

Woodchip protest at Bunbury

By Ingvar Anda

BUNBURY, W.A. — Thirty protesters were arrested at the Bunbury woodchip export facility here on Sunday, February 14. The arrests took place at the base of the massive pile of woodchips which had previously been old growth native forests.

The demonstration was planned as a water-based action to hinder the docking of a ship expected to arrive Sunday morning. These ships are currently taking nearly 1 million tonnes of woodchipped forests out of WA and over 5 million tonnes from Australia overall.

As it turned out, the ship was just moving into the harbour when the protesters arrived on Saturday afternoon. In a hectic burst of activity protesters donned wetsuits, inflated dinghies and launched kayaks. Although this managed to slow down the docking, the ship was eventually secured.

The next morning, police were positioned on the wharf side of the woodchip pile, expecting the activity to occur in the same place as the previous day. Hidden from the police by the 30-metre high pile of woodchips, the protesters scaled the fence at the back of the complex and ran up the woodchip heap past the bewildered security guards.

By the time the police arrived a huge banner was unfurled with the words "Save native forests" draped down the side of the woodchip pile. Loading was again interrupted and media attention focused on an industry that would rather keep hidden from public scrutiny — an industry which consumes over half of all forests cut in Australia, yet provides only 2% of jobs in the timber industry.

After cautions from the police to come down or face arrest, the protesters decided to come down, and were subsequently arrested anyway. They subsequently pleaded not guilty to charges of "failure to leave premises".