Image for FT shutdown. Seven arrests

Where: 79-83 Melville St, Hobart
When: From 5am, April 27th 2011

This morning the Hobart office of Forestry Tasmania was shut down by 35 conservationists, calling for the protection of Tasmania’s native forests.

All entrances to the building were blocked by conservationists from 5:00am today.  One protestor remains atop a flag-pole on the roof of the building, suspended on a platform which is held up by cables strung across the doorways blocking access to forestry offices. A banner hangs from the platform reading “Protect Native Forests.” A further nine protestors have attached themselves across gates and doorways with chains and locks. A coalition of groups including Still Wild Still Threatened, the Huon Valley Environment Centre and Code Green are taking part in today’s peaceful action.

“Forestry Tasmania has made a complete mockery of the moratorium process, following its own rogue agenda of new roading and increased logging of our irreplaceable high conservation value forests against the will of the Tasmanian people. This blatant disregard for the moratorium process exemplifies that Forestry Tasmania is accountable to no one” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

“There is a fundamental conflict of interest when a government business enterprise whose main interests lie in clear-felling and burning our world class forests is given responsibility of implementing forest conservation. One month on from the moratorium deadline and Forestry Tasmania have still made no progress on transitioning out of high conservation value forests, despite further decreases in the woodchip market due to the temporary closure of Triabunna woodchip mill”  said Ms Gibson.

“The Tasmanian community has had enough. Our forests are too precious to be left in the hands of the incompetent and unaccountable organisation that is Forestry Tasmania.  The State Government needs to take responsibility for its State forests and no longer hide behind Forestry Tasmania. We are calling on the Giddings Government to abolish Forestry Tasmania and immediately halt the destruction of our spectacular native forests” said Ms Gibson.

image

• UPDATE: Seven arrests

Today’s action at Forestry Tasmania office in Hobart saw seven conservationists arrested. Two people who locked themselves to gates at the rear of the building were charged with trespass. A further protestor who was suspended on a platform above the building was removed by search and rescue officers around 9 am and charged with trespass. Four others who chained themselves to barrels blocking the front entrances of the building have been charged with public nuisance. The final arrests were made around 1pm.

“Today’s successful action has brought the message to Forestry Tasmania that the Tasmanian community has had enough. We cannot wait
any longer to see our unique ancient forests protected” said Miranda Gibson, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

“The committed conservationists who were arrested at today’s peaceful protest have demonstrated the strong community opposition to Forestry
Tasmania’s on-going disregard for the Tasmanian community and for our forests” said Ms Gibson.

image

Watch Simon de Little’s vid on YouTube: HERE

• What FT says: The arrogant swagger of those who think they are above the law

Forestry Tasmania staff were prevented from going to work this morning as a group of extremists laid siege to FT Hobart headquarters.

This is the latest in a series of protests by the renegade group Huon Valley Environment Centre throughout the state.

Staff at FT again behaved impeccably, choosing to walk away rather than risk a confrontation.

Contractors, their employees and our field staff have put up with this sort of extreme aggression from this group many times before. It has cost contractors, their employees and families thousands of dollars in lost income.

There is deep frustration that one small group in the Tasmanian community seems permitted to break the law with impunity. Our staff and contractors have seen for themselves that charges are laid on some occasions, but not on others. They have seen those charged face court and be given little more than a slap over the wrist only to reappear to break the law again.

At today’s siege, they witnessed the arrogant swagger of the organiser who directed the siege from the safety of the footpath, where she knew she couldn’t be arrested and charged with breaching bail conditions.

To our staff, who are powerless to respond, there seems to be one law for some and another for others - or a set of rules that permit lawlessness for one group of individuals.

There currently is no protection for people going about their lawful business. People who work at Forestry Tasmania are proud of who they are and what they do. They are proud that some of the areas clearfelled and regenerated 20, 30 and 40 years ago, have found their way onto the list of areas environmentalists want reserved for their conservation value.

Silently, they rejoice in recognition that areas once claimed by environmentalists to be devastated, are now seen by the same environmental groups as worthy of national park status.

It is also worth asking how it is that more than a third of the area FT has been managing for 90 years is seen by some to have these high conservation values. If we had been destroying forests, as some claim, then surely after nine decades there would be nothing worth protecting.

Another feather in the cap of FT staff and contractors. These people are the real heroes and they deserve the protection of government, police and the courts.

Sadly, they are not getting that protection now, although they would no doubt be heartened by the support of the Premier.

• What the Premier says:

Lara Giddings, MP
Premier

Workplace disruption condemned

The Premier, Lara Giddings, today condemned this morning’s protests which prevented staff from Forestry Tasmania from entering their workplace.

“I support the right of people to protest but not where it prevents people from going about their lawful work,” Ms Giddings said.

“Today’s protest by the fringe group Still Wild, Still Threatened was unconstructive and directly undermines the goodwill that has been built up through the Statement of Principles process.

“Still Wild, Still Threatened were never part of that process and I understand they do not support it, but their views are not representative of the wider population who would like to see an end to conflict in our forests.

“Forestry Tasmania has played a positive role in discussions to date and is working proactively with the signatories to the Statement of Principles to identify areas of High Conservation Value native forest that could be protected in the long term.”

Ms Giddings rejected suggestions that the agreed moratorium has not been honoured.

“We have delivered 100 per cent of what was agreed to in the Statement of Principles – that is the protection of 98 per cent of contentious high conservation value forests, with just 2 per cent remaining to fill legally binding contracts and to keep forest workers employed.”

Ms Giddings urged all sides of the forest debate to show patience while work continues on long-term solutions.

Ms Giddings said staff at Forestry Tasmania had been working under enormous pressure.

“It is a difficult and uncertain time for all in the forest industry and this is not helped when decent, hardworking employees are prevented from going about their work.”