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Aussie Logging Update


On March 5, 2002, the five year camp in the Goolengook Forest, in East Gippsland in South-East Australia, was busted. At the time the camp consisted of a fortress across the road complete with moat and drawbridge; tunnels, tree sits, bridge and culvert lock-ons, and five or six ferocious defenders. The raid took place at 4:30 in the morning, with a force of forty policeman and Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) officers, and as the defenders locked on, the officers burned the fort and all their belongings in a bonfire. The latest round of the battle for Goolengook had begun.

Logging On

Goolengook forest is in the remote far-east of Victoria. It contains 273 rare and endangered plant species and 43 endangered animal species - and the government's own scientists recommend that its delicate mosaic of warm and cool temperate rainforests be left entirely intact. In 1997, Goolengook was logged for the first time - with round one of the battle to save it leading to more than 300 arrests, including Tasmanian Greens Senator Bob Brown. Less than 100 hectares was clearfelled at this stage and the logging stopped but the camp remained. Tenaciously reinstalling a new system of defenses between the existing roads and the remaining old growth, a watch was kept. A de facto drop in centre for eastern Australian activists, Goolengook became a home, a training ground, and an icon of the precarious fate of one of Australia's last undisturbed forests.

Late in 1998, the coupes at Goolengook were burned with aerial napalm bombs as part of routine "management" of previously wet forests - five protestors were caught in the shower but luckily survived. Again in early 1999, Goolengook was invaded as bulldozers and chainsaws flattened hectares of forest - which led to "Woodstop," a "this-is-not-a-festival" of direct action. Goolengeeks from across Australia returned home to the primeval forests to tell them loggers where to go. And go they did. But the camp remained. In early 2000, as part of a series of attacks against forest camps throughout Australia, eleven brave defenders were violently assaulted at the camp by a lynch mob of 50 loggers trying to scare them away. The camp remained. This time, we built a fort.

March 5 - April 9, 2002

The part of Goolengook under attack this time was in one of the National Sites of Biological Significance listed by the original surveys. It's the chunk of old growth between the two previously logged sets of coupes, spanning the untouched catchment of the Little Goolengook River. The law enforcement went up a few notches with the use - for the first time in Victoria - of "exclusion zones": prohibiting members of the public from a given area of crown land - on the word of the regional forestry manager alone. Worse, the zones moved from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour - and because of this cars were towed and impounded, possessions confiscated, and more than 75 people were arrested for "trespassing". Enforcing the exclusion zones for five weeks were 24 hour shifts of DNRE officers, as well as police who guarded the access roads to Goolengook, as well as logging machines.

Under this guard - and under floodlight at night - four coupes were logged at once. In response protesters took to the tactic known as 'Black Wallabies' where people run through the areas where trees are being felled, suddenly making it too dangerous to work. Bulldozer tracks, the pneumatic arms of log loaders, dragons in the road, culverts, and bridges were locked on to, treesits went up next to overnight cop camps along the coupe borders, and groups ran missions through the bush carrying food and supplies to them. There were nearly as many rescue camps as cop camps - on the road, in front of the gates, in the coupes, along the river. Still the forest factory was working full-tilt: and in five short weeks, another 100 hectares of Goolengook had been cleared.

There are more than 20 coupes scheduled to be logged in these areas over the next three years and while rumours fly about when and where that will be - one thing's for sure: we'll be there.



Weld Valley, Tasmania

Tasmania's forests played host to blockades, festivals, community actions and sabotage over the 2002 logging season...

The Weld community blockade in the south east of Tasmania was the first blockade camp in the area for five years. The picket was established in early February to save more than 3000 hectares of unlogged, old-growth forest in the Weld Valley, an area immediately adjacent to a World Heritage listed area. Forestry Tasmania has proposed 800,000 tonnes of woodchips to be removed from this and adjacent forests for incineration in the proposed Southwood Wood fired power station and industrial woodchipping complex. The camp was established in early February and busted four weeks later.

A week prior to the police raid of the Weld blockade $3m (1.2m) of damage was caused to logging equipment in another coupe. Four specialised log excavators and other equipment was destroyed - and activists were labelled as 'eco-terrorists' with activist group Future Rescue picked on in a media expose. The police asserted that the culprits must have had knowledge of operating such machinery, and the pattern of previous similar vandalism clearly suggests that it was part of a logging contractor war.

For its duration the Weld Valley campaign was home to between 30 and 40 people. It consisted of a tree platform mounted 30 metres off the ground which was constantly maintained. Lines ran from the platform to a double locked forestry gate, locked once by forestry to stop public access, and then re-locked by the community to stop forestry. Activists also spread the action to a nearby old growth coupe in the Picton Valley by halting work and talking to workers.

On March 6th after almost twenty-four hours of intensive police build up in the nearby town of Huonville, police moved in at dusk to break up the camp. Police cordoned off the forest in which the camp was situated, denied media and local residents access and declared the area an exclusion zone. The people who were in camp, now within the exclusion zone, were issued with the command to leave or face arrest for trespassing. An independent cameraperson was initially arrested, then the two police liaisons who were asking why this person was arrested were both also both nicked for trespassing.

During every logging season right across Australia similar blockade camps and civil disobedience actions are held. Although it's devastating when a blockade is busted, forest campaigners are a determined and resilient bunch and the struggle is always maintained regardless of the police, the intimidation, the smear campaigns and the logging trucks.