Protesters hold 'tree vigil' in Tarkine area earmarked for logging

Dr Lisa Searle protesting in the Frankland River area of the Tarkine. Picture: Joe Armao
Dr Lisa Searle protesting in the Frankland River area of the Tarkine. Picture: Joe Armao

Conservationists are ramping up their protest efforts as they brace for Forestry Tasmania to begin logging two coupes in the Tarkine.

It comes as the Forestry (Unlocking Production Forests) Bill 2017 heads to the upper house, aimed at unlocking a further 100,000 hectares in the region, as part of a proposed 356,000 hectares statewide, after the legislation passed through the House of Assembly early Friday morning.

Meanwhile, loggers were expected to move into the already available Frankland River area “any day”, where the Bob Brown Foundation was holding a vigil in a tree canopy.

Activist Scott Jordan said the vigil camp was well into its fourth week. “We’re watching over the area and conducting surveys and presenting evidence back to Forestry Tasmania as to why they shouldn’t be logging it.”

The two forestry coupes were included in Forestry Tasmania’s publicly available wood production plan for three years.

“It is Forestry Tasmania’s intention to harvest the Frankland River coupes in 2017. However, the operational decision on specific harvesting dates is yet to be made,” a Forestry Tasmania spokesman said.

The two coupes were separate to the 356,000 hectares proposed for unlocking under the new forestry legislation, which the government hoped to push through the upper house before a two-week parliamentary break.

But it had little backing from industry and other parties, with the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania saying it would risk a return to the “forestry wars”.

“We do not accept the characterisation made by the minister over the weekend that these changes are required to avoid 700 job losses.

“FIAT simply do not accept this simplified view and have repeatedly requested the opportunity to review the work done by Forestry Tasmania to assist to find more practical solutions but have been repeatedly refused by the minister,” chief executive Terry Edwards said.

Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the government would continue to push the bill, which he said would “save jobs” and end subsidies to Forestry Tasmania. 

“We understand that FIAT needs to represent the commercial interests of its members, but we have a duty to represent the public interest, and the Tasmanian taxpayer, and that is what we are doing.”

Former Greens leader Bob Brown said the Tarkine should be part of the World Heritage Area, “every bit as much as the Franklin”, which, in a landmark High Court case, was saved from flooding for a proposed hydro-electric commission dam in 1983. 

“Much like with the campaigns of the past, it’s just a matter of whichever big party sees it’s going to have a winner in the Tarkine,” Dr Brown said.