About 50 log trucks banked up at the entrance to Artec's woodchip mill at Bell Bay on Friday morning after a protest from the Bob Brown Foundation, which resulted in two arrests and heightened tensions.
The trucks that arrived throughout the morning included those carrying timber from plantations as well as from native forest coupes across Tasmania.
About 20 protesters scaled a 30-metre loading gantry to gain access to the site overnight, and two people used barrels to chain themselves to an entry gate, preventing access. It was the first woodchip mill protest in Tasmania for a decade.
They were protesting native forest harvesting, including the use of these products for woodchip exports.
The Bob Brown Foundation made allegations regarding confrontations involving people who arrived at the site to find it blocked. The incidents resulted in the tyres of protesters' vehicles losing their air, and the RACT and other tow trucks arrived to remove them.
In a statement, Tasmania Police said officers were called to the site about 5.15am, and confirmed two arrests had been made.
The two people - one a 27-year-old Newstead man, the other a 25-year-old Blackstone Heights woman - have been charged with trespass and will appear in the Launceston Magistrates Court on March 31.
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"The majority of protesters complied with police directions to move on," the statement reads.
"At this stage Tasmania Police has not received any formal complaints of property damage or assault at the protest."
Police used trolleys to transport the two protesters and barrels out of the way of the gates about 11am, allowing for the trucks to begin depositing their logs for woodchipping.
Heightened tensions as log truck drivers wait in line
Before then, a queue of logging trucks grew along Mobil Road, with drivers venting frustration, including their expectation that protests would become an increasingly common occurrence in Tasmania following the Bob Brown Foundation's recent defeat in the Federal Court.
Stuart Lindsay, who had driven to the Artec mill with logs from Bronte Park, said he was on a "per-load" rate and had lost income as a result.
"A lot of these drivers probably get paid to sit here and wait, but others don't. I'm on a load rate," he said.
"They lost out in court for starters, so they're going to keep causing drama now. It's just going to keep going around."
Another log truck driver, Jason, who arrived from near Ross and sat far down the queue, said he thought the protests would have happened more in the bush than at mills.
His truck carried native forest, which he said was from an area that had been harvested repeatedly in the past.
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Jason said the protesters were also preventing plantation log trucks.
"The truck in front of us - in fact, a lot of these trucks - are from plantations, and so they're disrupting plantation harvesting as well," he said.
"Some of the things they protest are fair enough, but they also put out some wrong information to the public. Like with the bird (swift parrot) - yes, it's endangered, fair enough - but they're complaining about areas so far away from where they're breeding."
Native forests for woodchips driven by 'wasteful consumption'
The use of native forests for woodchip exports was central to the protest, which Bob Brown Foundation campaign manager Jenny Weber said was "wasteful consumption".
The protesters displayed a banner near woodchip piles and machinery at Artec which said "Artec wood chipping Tasmania's old growth".
It came after recent protests at Wentworth Hills in the Central Highlands, in which protesters "immobilised" logging machinery on Wednesday.
BBF campaign organiser Erik Hayward said the practice of exporting woodchips from native forest was harmful.
"Export woodchipping continues to drive the loss of vast areas of native forests in Tasmania, including the old growth forests in Wentworth Hills and swift parrot habitat in the Eastern Tiers," he said.
"Tasmania is plagued by continued destruction of Tasmania's native forests and successive governments who have propped up the environmentally damaging industry."
Forestry protest activity increased in 2020, including in the Eastern Tiers during swift parrot breeding season, resulting in an injunction on logging in up to 30 coupes during the Federal Court challenge. Bob Brown was arrested and charged twice during these protests.
Industry bodies want protests out of workplaces
The incident drew further calls from forestry industry groups to prevent protests on workplaces, while the Tasmanian Greens are urging police to fully investigate all allegations of violence.
Forest and Wood Communities Australia director Kelly Wilton said the matter had been reported as a "notifiable incident" to workplace authorities as the protesters had placed themselves in danger.
She said the BBF could instead use its social media channels to distribute its messages rather than direct protest.
"To be honest, environmental organisations have got their place. They've got to lobby government on environmental issues, that's OK, that's all well and good," Ms Wilton said.
"As far as this protesting stuff goes, keep it out of the workplace. They've got no right to be here. They've got places where they can go and protest."
The Tasmanian Forest Products Association renewed its call for "stronger protections" for workplaces.
Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O'Connor held concerns regarding allegations of violence on Friday morning, and wanted assurances that it would be thoroughly investigated.
"It requires police investigation," she said.
"BBF volunteers are at the frontline of stopping the climate and biodiversity crisis which is being alarmingly accelerated by deforestation."