‘Only option’ to protest on: Evers

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Margaret River-based forest activist Ray Swarts is among conservationists calling for the State Government to review its forestry practices.
Camera IconMargaret River-based forest activist Ray Swarts is among conservationists calling for the State Government to review its forestry practices. Credit: Jane Hammond

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers says anti-logging protesters have no option but to continue their activism, despite stone-walling from the State Government.

The Greens are backing the WA Forest Alliance’s latest campaign, which has included high-profile protests by grandmothers at Helms and McCorkhill forests inland from Margaret River.

The campaign seeks to review adherence to WA’s old-growth logging policy as well as oft-reported complaints the State’s logging agency, the Forest Products Commission, is failing to use timber for high-grade products and operating at a loss.

But successive State Governments have declined to give activists’ financial critique any oxygen and Ms Evers said intractability didn’t mean the latest campaign had no purpose.

“It’s like coal,” Ms Evers told the Times. “The time must come. I do still have that sort of optimism, because we do know it has to change.”

The Greens MLC said the evidence of unsustainability in State forestry practices must eventually be confronted by whoever holds government.

The State forestry plan would be reviewed in 2023 and activists had few options but to keep on the pressure until then.

“They’re (the Government) just shooting themselves in the foot holding back on it,” she said.

“I’m hoping by that time we might have some kind of consensus.”

The anti-logging campaign had produced a documentary project that screened this week featuring South West activists.

Margaret River campaigner Ray Swarts said the documentary showed the stark impacts of logging in areas he and others believed were old growth.

WA Forestry Minister Dave Kelly said he was proud of the Government’s record managing native forests and rebuffed claims old-growth forest continued to take a hit.

“The Forest Management Plan provides a robust policy framework that strikes a balance between conservation and other activities, including native forest timber harvesting, honey production, tourism and recreation,” he said.

“Nearly 62 per cent of forest ecosystems on public land in the area are in existing or proposed conservation reserves or otherwise protected areas.

“Under the FMP all old-growth forest, around 334,000ha, continues to be protected from timber harvesting.

“Every hectare of native forest harvested by the FPC is regenerated,” he said.

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre co-ordinator Peta Goodwin said activists would take their campaign to Parliament House for an audience with Mr Kelly – but they wanted him to walk the ground and see their evidence firsthand.

“Because the Government has so far refused to engage in any discussion about the future of the native forest logging industry, we are taking our concerns to the people,” she said.

“Many in the community believe that in 2001 logging stopped and our forests were protected. We want to show them what ‘protection’ and ‘sustainable management’ of our forests actually looks like on the ground.”

Conservationists believed legislation has only shored up the logging industry.

“That industry is losing money hand over fist and our taxes are subsidising it,” Ms Goodwin said.

“It is time to revisit this – before it is too late and our forests are gone.”

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