Protests against forest agreements

April 5, 2000


Protests against forest agreements

Environmentalists staged protests across the country on March 31 against the failure of regional forest agreements (RFAs) to protect old-growth forests from logging.

In Melbourne, conservationists condemned Steve Bracks' Labor state government and the federal Coalition government for signing two RFAs for Gippsland and for the state's western forests. According to Friends of the Earth (Victoria), state government advisers confirmed that the RFAs would entrench clear-felling and woodchipping for 20 years. The two governments withheld the RFA documents and maps until late afternoon on Friday, March 31.

In Sydney, the Wilderness Society led a protest by 100 people against what it described as "a death warrant for native forests in NSW". The signing of the state's RFA signalled "a new era of unfettered woodchipping and mass extinctions", the group said.

The state Labor government plans to spend $18 million acquiring private land for the woodchippers, expenditure which has been questioned by the NSW auditor-general.

From Canberra, Josephine Hunt and Ruth Ratcliffe report that 130 people gathered outside Parliament House. Speakers, including Christine Milne from the Greens, ACT Labor's environment spokesperson Simon Corbell and long-time environmental campaigner Alec Marr, said the RFA had been strongly influenced by industry interests.

Keri James from the newly formed Canberra Forest Alliance told Green Left Weekly that the rally was "a good way to start the ball rolling" and that the public is becoming "more aware that we need to act now in this critical time".

More than 200 protesters formed a giant "people's tree" on the lawns of Parliament House in Hobart, reports Alex Bainbridge. Another 100 rallied in Launceston. Sawmill owner Kim Booth told the Hobart rally that export woodchipping was responsible for job losses in the timber industry, especially since the 1997 Tasmanian RFA was signed.

Greens senator Bob Brown said in a media release: "The failure of the RFAs leaves the government's forest policy in disarray and today's protests mark the start of a new push to protect Australia's forests and wildlife".

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