More than 100 Bellingen residents are preparing to travel to Sydney to protest outside parliament house on Tuesday, March 22 at midday, ‘Not in My Forest’ spokesperson Susan Weil said.
“We will be making our voices heard loud and strong when we support the Greens’ motion in parliament asking the government to protect the Tarkeeth Forest and to scrap the proposed logging and harvesting operation,” she said.
“And support the community to develop sustainable jobs in tourism, walking trails and adventure sports.”
Susan said the group will protest “Bello style” with a forest dress-up theme, drummers and dancers.
“We plan to show Sydney our passion and our hearts when it comes to protecting our backyard.”
Coming off the back of last year’s successful bid to stop aerial spraying by NSW Forestry Corporation in the Bellingen Shire, Susan said she’s been overwhelmed by the continuing support from the community in protecting the Tarkeeth State Forest.
“The community always turns up when it matters most, they understand how important these forests are to our health and our future here,” she said.
“Clean forests equals clean water, our most precious resource. If Forestry Corporation clear-fell logs this compartment we stand to lose a lot more then we could ever possibly gain.
“People are often confusing sustainable logging practices used by our local loggers and timber mills with the size and the scale of the machine of Forestry Corporation.
“It’s like comparing a local fishing boat with the super trawlers. This compartment of over 1550 hectares is a diverse mixed species forest with both plantation and native forest. It has steep slopes, it sits between both the Kalang and the Bellinger rivers … it is a living museum of indigenous art and artifacts dating back thousands of years.
“It is located within 20m of local residents’ homes and it is home to several endangered species including the iconic koala.”
Forestry Corporation has a 20-year exemption that prevents legal action being taken on the basis of objection and Susan said this means they are “literally above the law”.
“Imagine that, a government-run department that has no watchdog mechanisms in place to keep them honest … how did that happen?
“If they were in fact operating with integrity and true sustainable logging practices then they would be happy to be transparent because they would have nothing to hide. But that clearly is not the case. So we have no choice but to fight this on the ground and take a stand.
“Forestry Corporation plans to clear-fell the Tarkeeth State Forest mid-year. All of this equates to a total environmental disaster, loss of habitat and destruction of valuable aboriginal heritage. We have a responsibility to protect and preserve this forest for future generations to enjoy and learn from.
“Forestry Corporation has lost its social license to operate here in the shire and this community will not let them take this forest. This will be the biggest protest ever seen on the Mid-North Coast if we have to go into the forest to stop them logging it.
“We would love more people from Bellingen to come down to Sydney and stand beside us and show the rest of Australia that we mean business. We know we are asking a lot from everyone, but this is important. We want people to take a day off work and pull their kids out of school for the day and let them stand beside us as a solid community that says no. Our children need to be a part of this and for them to learn that they can help us make a difference in the world, if we let them.”
Susan said she was organising a bus and car-pooling for those who need transport to Sydney and back. For more information, visit the Facebook page Sydney Protest to Save Bellingen’s Forests.