EXPLAINER

Meet one of the stalwarts at the Kalang Headwaters camp

Mike Lawless

Mike Lawless

Meet Mike Lawless, one of the stalwarts of Camp Kalang (affectionately known as the Biodiversity Embassy), who has been holding the fort, along with others, for more than two months.

A retired school teacher, Mike says he is there because he feels compelled to be.

"My wife passed last year and I promised myself I'd get out and see Australia - I'm here because I want to make sure there is plenty of Australia to see! Protecting this is part of the big picture, it is a privilege," Mike said.

Daily life is simple: monitoring what's going on in the forest, communicating any news if anything is happening, welcoming any visitors, offering them "conversation and a cuppa" and signing them into the camp protocols.

The Biodiversity Embassy

The Biodiversity Embassy

"It's a dry camp. Everyone is welcome to come up for a cuppa and/or to camp ... I'm here to give them information about the logging plans and the action we are taking.

"It's very important to have people here, to spread the word about why this is so important. This country is so delicate and there are so many threatened species ... logging here is a disaster waiting to happen.

I'd love to see this solved in parliament - and this country given protection as a national park

Mike Lawless

"I also believe that caring for country is fundamental to the well-being of everyone, especially Aboriginal people. I worked in a juvenile detention centre for 18 years, I met a lot of elders ... too much country has already been destroyed, we need to make sure this is preserved."

Fridays are when Mike gets a break, driving the 25km back into Bellingen for his weekly shower and to buy supplies ... and if there's a good band on at the pub, he'll be there having a dance.

In his absence others such as long-time Kalang resident Stephanie Ring step in, bringing fresh home-cooked food for the campers, and the tree dwellers.

"Forty years ago I came to the Kalang - it is where I had my children ... those headwaters are precious, there are deep pristine pools. The country is still recovering from previous logging operations - the diversity is returning, we need to save that," Stephanie said.

Her son, Jonas Bellchambers, has been working alongside ecologist Mark Graham, mapping threatened species in the area.

"Just last week there was a Stephens' Banded Snake in camp - they are highly venomous and endangered," Jonas said.

"It is one of many threatened species we have found, some of which have not been on Forestry surveys.

"The harvest plans take in three compartments and they all have shale as their bedrock, which means they are prone to fracturing. Landslips are our biggest concern because anything that washes down goes straight into the water."

Jonas Bellchambers, daughter Cedar and Stephanie Ring

Jonas Bellchambers, daughter Cedar and Stephanie Ring

The rich biodiversity of the bush is something that former National Parks and Wildlife Service manager, Kathryn Wood, says is unique.

"There is old growth and good native forest regrowth here, so there is a build up of biodiversity ... you see special things here," Kathryn said.

"When it comes to harvesting timber, we could have amazing best practice ... really, we can grow wood better than we can grow beef."

And if you feel you'd like to take action: tomorrow (Saturday) there will be a protest march to support the protection of the Kalang Headwaters, starting from the Bellingen Markets, 10am.

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