Protesters boycott Port Macquarie Caring for our Koalas and Environment Conference

Taking a stand: Protesters outside the 2018 Koala Conference in Port Macquarie on June 7.
Taking a stand: Protesters outside the 2018 Koala Conference in Port Macquarie on June 7.

A PROTEST outside a conference in Port Macquarie to discuss the future of koala conservation demanded the state government review its policy on forests and timber harvesting.

The No Electricity From Forests (NEFF) were joined by conservation groups from across the Mid North Coast in boycotting what they claimed to be a ‘green washing’ exercise designed to hide the true impacts of the NSW government’s forest policies, including wholesale industrial scale logging and clear felling.  

The 2018 Caring for our Koalas and Environment Conference brought together experts from across the country to Sails Resort as a part of the Hello Koalas Festival.

Changes to the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (CIFOA) include merging the existing four timber harvesting zones zones into one that covers the entire NSW coast, and also starting a new mapping exercise "to gain a better understanding of key state forest sites".

The draft Coastal IFOA and related documents will be available for public consultation for a period of six weeks and submissions should be submitted by 5pm on June 29.

Environmental groups say the remapping posed a "serious new threat" because it could result in mature forests losing their current high protection levels to make up for logging contracts lost in koala reserves.

Bellingen Environment Centre, North East Forest Alliance, North Coast Environment Council, Hastings Climate Change, Australian Forests and Climate Change, Natives Rule and the Kalang River Alliance joined the protest.

Frank Dennis spokesperson for No Electricity from Forests said the attempt by the state government to market its forest policy as a positive is seriously flawed.

“With their voices, their signs and banners, in a very public manner, we rejected the government’s slick marketing exercise attempting to cover up the trashing of our native forests,” Mr Dennis said.

“Lots of cars passing the protest in front of the conference venue at Sails Resort tooted their horns in support”.  

Ashley Love of the Bellingen Environment Centre is a fierce advocate for The Great Koala National Park.

“It was a highly successful protest and we felt sure the message would have been hard to ignore. Local people are not going to stand for their forests being intensively logged threatening the extinction of the koala. 

“They want a proper response to a sensible proposal for a Great Koala National Park”.

Mr Dennis said the groups will not back down from the campaigning effort to highlight to the public the fact that the greatest concentration of unprotected koalas populations, and the areas of most intensive logging, are in National Party regions.

“We will be calling on our local members to account for the damage their policies are causing to forests,” he said.

Harry Creamer, representing Climate Change Australia, said bad decision-making will leave a lasting legacy on the Australian environment.

“Future generations will mourn the loss of Australian wildlife, forests and woodlands their bad decisions are creating. This is a government that only cares about corporate profits and appealing to big agri-business, miners and forestry companies.

“They reject good scientific advice and ignore the needs of regional communities for clean air, clean water and clean energy.”

Francis Pike of Australian Forests and Climate Alliance said the evidence is clear koalas are under threat.

“It was refreshing to see so many people unequivocally resisting the government’s propaganda that their koala protection measures will save the koala,” she said.

“They aren’t fooled by plastic street koalas and the offer of more koala hospitals.

“The evidence is clear – koalas are in serious decline and we must halt the destruction of their habit.

“What we have instead is a massive increase in clear felling and forest clearing, wood chipping koala habitat to fuel furnaces to produce electricity. Totally unacceptable at every level.”