Four locked on to machinery to defend koala forest
Update 3.30pm: THE NSW Forestry Corporation said the long-term sustainability of the forest and its ability to provide habitat for wildlife like koalas, as well as timber, is at the forefront of their forest management.
Protesters locked themselves to machinery today at Gibberagee State Forest, 6km east of Whiporie, to demand action by the corporation and the Environmental Protection Authority to protect koala use areas.
"Each time we harvest timber, we make sure that Koala habitat and feed trees are protected and that the potion of forest harvested is regrown with new trees," a Forestry Corporation spokesperson said.
"Gibberagee is a re-growth forest with a long history of timber harvesting and today it continues to support healthy populations of koalas.
"The strict rules for forestry in NSW are regulated by the EPA and are being employed in Gibberagee.
"We have a team of dedicated staff that are continuing to identify and protect Koala feed trees and the habitat of other species.
"This forest is closed to the public as it is an active worksite and Forestry Corporation is cooperating fully with the EPA."
A spokesperson from the EPA said the authority is investigating all of the recent allegations made regarding current logging operations in Gibberagee State Forest.
"Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) is required to comply with the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals, including rules regarding the identification and protection of koala habitat," the spokesman said.
"The EPA is taking the allegations seriously.
"The investigation will determine if breaches have occurred and regulatory action is required."
NEFA's Dailan Pugh said recent breaches by FCNSW in this and other sites were met by EPA with 'token' fines.
"We are frustrated because we have tried a number of times to appeal to the Government to make them stop and it's just not happening," he said.
"We did some audits in other parts of the Gibberagee forest two years ago, and we found numerous breaches," he said.
"We complained to the EPA at the time, I was invited by the EPA to show them the breaches but Forestry ordered me out of the forest before I could show them, and then in January this year the EPA issues Forestry two official cautions and two warning letters, over a year after the logging was completed."
Original story: FOUR protesters have locked themselves to machinery overnight supported by around 20 other environmental activists at Gibberagee State Forest, 6km east of Whiporie, to demand action by the Forestry Corporation and the Environmental Protection Authority to protect koala use areas.
North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson, Dailan Pugh, said the group action was taken to express their concerns over illegal logging of koala habitat, and appeal to Premier Gladys Berejiklian to ensure an independent assessment using a scat detection dog is undertaken to look for and protect high use koala areas.
"We are really here because we've been trying for weeks and weeks to do pre-logging surveys for koalas and to identify koala high-use areas to exclude from logging," he said.
"We have appeals to the EPA and the Minister for Environment, and we attempted to appeal to appeal to the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian in Lismore (on Friday) but she wouldn't give us a hearing."
Mr Pugh said NEFA has documented evidence that the Forestry Corporation has failed to survey for koalas before they started logging in the area where the protest is being held and others in the past.
"We found a number of trees with koala marks, we call them trigger trees, and they are in areas that have been logged already."
Mr Pugh also said the Corporation has systematically incurred in illegal logging in areas used by koalas because they have failed to survey them and the EPA has failed to stop it.
"It's disgraceful that the EPA won't do its job," Mr Pugh said.
Both the EPA and NSW Forestry Corporation have been contacted for comment.