02 May, 2006

ARTICLE: Forest protest flap

Warrnambool Standard

2 May 2006

A PROTEST to save the Cobboboonee forest near Portland and the state's remaining old-growth forest took a windy turn at a Warrnambool landmark yesterday.

Protesters scaled the dizzy heights of the Fletcher Jones water tower in the early hours

The first said in colourful writing `Save the Cobboboonee' and the second `Save Our Old Growth Forests' in black and white. Students from Deakin University and University of Melbourne launched the protest to stop clear-fell logging,
sparking outrage from Warrnambool City Council.

The council hired a crane to take down the banners later in the morning at a ``significant cost'' out of fears for the public's safety.

Warrnambool conservationist and protest member Piers Johnson said that in the past 100 years 95 per cent of the Portland forest management area and Cobboboonee forest had been cleared.

he area was home to endangered species such as the red-tailed black cockatoo and is under threat of land clearing, forest burning and general habitat destruction because of logging, Mr Johnson said.

``Actions will continue until (Premier) Bracks acts to protect remaining forests and declare them part of the existing Glenelg National Park,'' he said.

University of Melbourne student union environment officer Julia Dehm said the State Government vowed to stop logging in state forests at the last election but had continued to assign contracts to logging companies.

She said state parks like Cobboboonee should be declared national parks for future protection.

``Nothing has been done to stop it. We are hoping to put more pressure on the Government to ensure it is protected,'' she said.

Two protesters fitted with professional climbing apparatus scaled the rusted tower ladder at 2am yesterday and didn't abseil down until 5.30am.

Ms Dehm said the prominence of the site made it ideal to stage the protest.

``I think a lot of people support us. They are passionate about protecting their forest,'' she said.

Warrnambool City Council economic development director Andrew Minack said the banners were put up illegally and in a very dangerous site.

``Because of occupational health and safety we had to get a crane in to do anything. It was at a significant cost,'' he said.

``Council staff are forbidden to go up there. There are parts of the ladder rusted off.''

He said the banners were weighted down by bags filled with bricks and sand which had the potential to fall through the Fletcher Jones building roof onto TAFE students or pedestrians on paths. ``I understand people feeling passionate
about old-growth forests, but I don't think this is an appropriate way of displaying or promoting it,'' Mr Minack said.

Original article

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