Logging operations have ground to a halt today in two State Forests in the proposed Great Koala National Park as the conflict over the destruction of the 175 000 hectare area slated for protection returns to the battlegrounds of the Mid North Coast. Three high school students have locked on to heavy machinery and a full barrel of cement in Orara East State Forest while at the same time in Boambee State Forest two Knitting Nannas have locked onto heavy machinery and a protester has occupied a treesit. These areas are home to 20% of the state’s wild Koalas and the proposed Great Koala National Park which will provide a critical connected reserve and a lifeline to Koalas which are on the trajectory to extinction.
The protests follow the delivery of a communique to NSW Parliament last week by the Great Koala National Park Advocacy Group who joined crossbench MPs in calling for a suspension of logging operations in the proposed Great Koala National Park after Labor committed to establishing the Great Koala National Park in their third consecutive election campaign. Environment Minister Penny Sharpe confirmed in a statement in Parliament last week that there would be no moratorium on logging in the areas that will be the Great Koala National Park.
Greens MP and spokesperson for the Environment Sue Higginson said: “The Government’s position is environmentally, economically and socially untenable and now we see young people having to spend their school holidays taking direct action to stop logging operations to protect their local forest and Koalas.”
Seventeen year old Mason from Glenreagh, who is currently locked to a machine surrounded by his friends in Orara East State Forest, said: “I am here on behalf of myself and my 14 year old brother. The rate at which our government is auctioning off natural forests is frightening, and I feel powerless to do anything about it. We’ve tried protesting, and we can’t vote, which is why we feel driven to take this action against these machines ripping our trees down. The government can stop this and we just need them to take notice.”
April, 17, from the Orara Valley, who is currently locked to a barrel full of cement with Jimmy, 17, at Orara East State Forest, said: “I’m a passionate year 12 student from Coffs Harbour. I am making a sacrifice by pausing my HSC studies and risking my future to protest against the logging of native habitat, particularly this forest next to my home. This forest holds a special place in my heart, and I refuse to stand idly by as Forestry Corp destroys the cherished memories I associate with it. It's high time the NSW Government recognizes the urgent need to halt deforestation of native habitats and protect the natural treasures on Gumbaynggirr land.”
Sue Higginson said: “This conflict in the forest is on the government for holding an untenable position. The government has support from across the Parliament and was elected on the promise to create the Great Koala National Park, yet here it is destroying it.
“Last week the Minister said that there are no agreed facts in this debate. The agreed facts we have are that if we continue as we are, Koalas will be extinct in the wild in just 27 years. We know that the 175 000 hectares of native forests that will be protected under the Great Koala National Park plan will provide a critical connection between existing National Parks and this is our best chance at saving our beloved Koala. We know that logging operations are literally driving Koalas to extinction right now and that the minority Labor Government made an $80 million commitment to creating the park. Now we have young people putting their lives on the line in defence of their forests and Koalas.
“We know the solution, we just need the government to take action.” Ms Higginson said.
Photos and videos of the protest can be found here.
For media comment contact:
Sue Higginson: 0428 227 363