20 January 06
Ten anti-logging protesters, blockading an isolated patch of forest in Victoria's far East Gippsland, may be the first to be the first charged under a new state law.
A Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman said today that 10 people were expected to be charged on summons under the Safety on Public Land Act, which came into effect in December 2004.
Goongerah Environment Centre spokeswoman Fiona York said two of the protesters were locked on to logging machinery, six had refused to leave the blockade and one had been taken away by police for an identity check.
She said the site was at a logging coupe in old growth forest, next to the Errinundra National Park, about 90 minutes' drive north-east of Orbost.
Another six protesters moved on when police asked them to leave.
Ms York spoke with the remaining blockaders by phone today and said they were determined to stay at the site.
"They said they were all set and everybody was happy and in good spirits," Ms York said.
Three Orbost police attended the scene today and Ms York said two DSE officers had made the arrests, with no loggers present.
She said today's blockade was the fifth in the area this week and that another 35 people were blockading two other sites at Goongerah and Yalmy forests, which included local water supply catchment areas.
Ms York said three people were arrested at a blockade on Monday after halting work for two days at a logging coupe near Bendoc and that local residents were driving out to support the protesters, bringing food and supplies.
"The amount of protest activity in East Gippsland this week is indicative of exactly how much old growth forest is still being logged in this area," Ms York said.
"These areas contain massive 300-year-old trees, waterfalls and rainforest species. They should not be logged.
"Every day the equivalent to 27 MCGs are cleared. Premier Steve Bracks must act to protect old growth forests and water catchments for future generations."