Protesters hope that joining tours through a state forest outside Batemans Bay will open people’s eyes to what logging is doing to the local native forests.
“We believe that people need to see the logging for themselves, because then it’s no longer theoretical,” Joslyn van der Moolen of the Brooman State Forest Conservation Group said.
Protesters say spotted gum forest is being logged on both sides of the Clyde River, involving the state forests of Currowan, Shallow Crossing, Brooman and Benandarah, which are all to the northwest of the Bay.
A ‘forest embassy’ was set up on the side of the Princes Highway to protest against the logging and invites others to visit to express their “frustration and outrage”, Ms van der Moolen said.
“We get lots of beeps of support from passing motorists!” she said.
She described the logging that had been done to the forests as a “hammering”.
“The residents’ concern is they fought the fires not only to save their homes, but also to save this forest,” she said.
There were many reasons why Ms van der Moolen was concerned about the logging in the compartments, including the impact on tourism and the importance of keeping trees as carbon stores.
She also said the local wildlife had been decimated in the bushfires and needed old forests to survive.
But a Forestry Corporation spokesperson said the harvesting of timber for building products takes place in around one per cent of the two million hectares of native state forest each year.
“After the 2019-20 bushfires, harvesting levels on the South Coast reduced significantly and when operations commenced in South Brooman in April 2020, additional environmental safeguards were put in place in all fire-affected forests,” the spokesperson said.
“Since the 2019-20 bushfires, eight compartments in the Clyde River area have been harvested under strict environmental regulations, with a total harvested area of 1050 ha.
“There are three harvest plans currently active, across six compartments and seven harvesting plans are scheduled north of Batemans Bay for 2023.”
The forest embassy already held one forest tour in December 2022 and has more planned for early 2023, which will head along public roads after the hours of operation.
Those joining a tour will be taken on a drive to see the logging in Brooman State Forest and their guides will talk about the operation and explain what is happening, “so people get to see the reality of logging”, Ms van der Moolen said.
“People are just absolutely shocked,” she said.
But the Forestry spokesperson said they discouraged people from going into areas of forest that were being harvested.
“Even on a weekend when heavy machinery may not be operating, active harvesting sites contain many hazards, including hung up branches,” the spokesperson said.
“Active harvesting operations are worksites and workplace health and safety considerations are of the utmost importance for the safety of both workers and the public.”
The embassy will be on the west side of the Princes Highway, 20 minutes north of Batemans Bay on the corner of the Old Princes Highway, 500 metres south of the East Lynne Store.
The tour will be of Brooman Compartment 66 and will go along public dirt roads – Old Princes Highway and Barkshed Road – to return to the store.