Just weeks after Australia was devastated by the bush fire crisis which saw 33 lives lost and 27.2 million acres burned, a group of climate activists halted a Victorian state-approved ‘harvest and regeneration’ logging coupe.
The masked protesters, who identified themselves as Extinction Rebellion, attended the Central Highlands forest near Warburton VIC where they held a protest inside of the ‘timber harvesting safety zones’, preventing the harvesting from commencing due to OH&S restrictions.
‘VicForests’ who are responsible for the sustainable harvest, re-growing and commercial sale of timber from public forests are a state-owned business who act on behalf of the Victorian Government. Each harvesting and regeneration site is part of a meticulous and long-standing plan that has been approved by the Victorian Government that’s overseen and bound by various legislative acts that preserve and conserve the environment.
Despite the forests being owned and managed by the state government, protesters frequently attend the harvesting locations and stop the ‘coupe’ process.
According to members of the logging community, the ‘coupe’ is a process in which the forest is harvested and regenerated gradually over a three year period, with wildlife corridors, soil enhancing and re-planting through seed is conducted.
On Wednesday the January 12, Extinction Rebellion activists who go under the name ‘XR Forests’ attended the forest area near Warburton Victoria where they entered the harvesting safety zones, forcing the logging process to be halted.
The state government logging contractor who was on-site ceased all operations and contacted the local police. During this time it was discovered that two of the logging vehicle tyres had been damaged to the point in which the machine was no longer operational and both tyres had to be replaced. The vehicle is valued at $500,000 with the tyres costing $5,000 each.
The damage caused to the tyres was not witnessed by anyone and it cannot be confirmed whether the ‘slash’ type damage was maliciously and deliberately caused or whether it occurred organically through other mechanical and operational means.
XR Forests Facebook page uploaded a post later that day stating:
Logging operations have been halted by XR forests members and local community members today near Warburton. We have occupied the site while the Government is in denial. The catastrophic fires have left our threatened species with drastically less habitat, and it is now imperative that we protect what’s left to save them from extinction. Unique animals like the Smoky Mouse, Sooty Owl, Greater Glider and Powerful Owl need all the viable habitat to survive. These forests also provide critical carbon storage, water security and local economic opportunities through eco-tourism. There is a myriad of reasons to STOP LOGGING native forests in 2020″. Extinction Rebellion and community members acknowledge that they are rebelling on unceded lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. This land always was and always will be Aboriginal Land.
Despite police attendance, only a few activists were apprehended, while others fled on foot before any identification was obtained.
Caldron Pool obtained video of a contract worker confronting protesters who refused to remove their masks or reveal their identity. The contractor filming the incident described the protest as an “absolute disgrace.”
“Contractor’s turned up to work here this morning, two flat tyres on his skidder, whether it’s been sabotaged or not,” he said. “There’s about five illegal activists on the logging coupe here in Warburton.”
The disruption of the logging process from activists has become increasingly common in the timber industry.
Nationals MP Melina Bath commented on the protest, saying, “Imagine turning up to work to find yourself confronted by masked individuals illegally trespassing in your workplace.
“They film you, compromise your workplace safety and you’re forced to sit back and wait for authorities to instigate their removal.
“This is the stark reality faced by Victorian timber harvesters and I am seriously concerned for their ongoing mental health and wellbeing.”
Ms Bath continued, “Daniel Andrews is refusing to support these workers & his Ministers are unwilling to act upon the urgent situation.
“This week activists have illegally invaded multiple VicForest logging coupes throughout Victoria. The video’s I am sharing tell the tale & were filmed this week,” she added.