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Winning campaign to stop forest into Mogo charcoal factory NSW South Coast

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Picture: This message above was postered throughout marginal seats in February and March 2003 creating pressure on the Govt to rule out this project using natural forest feedstock.

 

Victory against charcoal, now for woodchips ...

By Tom McLoughlin 18th March 2003

[and see links listed at the end of this article below for a blow by blow coverage of this genuinely strong broad grassroots campaign over several years]

Ecology action believes the decision announced around midday Monday17th March 2003 by media release out of Environment Minister Bob Debus's office is a big shift in policy against any future for industrial native forest logging in nsw. For instance this general policy change affirms and finalises the lead up campaigns by the local and Sydney community against individual projects proposed for different parts of nsw - notably Dubbo, Gunnedah then Mogo.

Yet the NSW Coalition Party was still planning to support Bombala as a site with its long time redneck culture and Premier Carr was outraged that Mogo was dumped as a site with every likelihood of promoting the project again. The fact is whichever site this would still impact public forests with logging of at least 200,000 tonnes per year, and more likely an expanded 300K per year from the south coast catchments.

This underlines the fatal consequences for forests of flirting with any form of "nice" industrial native forest logging as a signal to govt to just relocate the impacts i.e. relocate the bulldozers on the checker board.

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We acknowledge the central role of the new South East Forest Alliance and constituent groups (eg Friends of Durras, ACF Shoalhaven, Dignams Creek Community Group, Monga Action Group, Charcoal Busters etc) and leadership role of convenor Noel Plumb in the current election campaign. We acknowledge the leading role of the South Coast Greens in holding out on preferences for that marginal seat until the final announcement. Long live the grassrooots. We acknowledge ChipStop as the authorisation body of the election campaign posters (Harriet Swift) with ongoing actions in the south east region. We acknowledge Charcoalition and all the regional campaigns prior to this election phase.

Ecology action are proud to have played a role in this statewide policy change against charcoal from public forests. In early February 2003 the convenor of SEFA contacted us and in return for support in registration of our campaign vehicle we agreed to support the "no charcoal, no woodchips" campaign in Sydney. Our work included:

- repeated poster runs and repair visits over 3 weeks in Premier Carr's seat of Maroubra (and approach roads), the marginal seat of Ryde, and latterly in the city and Princes Hwy approach at Cooks River (about 150 posters). On one morning at 4.30am local police advised they had been briefed to crack down on this activity. It was significant to notice the synergy of Green Party posters nearby the "No charcoal, its time Bob Carr, No woodchips" posters and a stronger progressive presence in the suburbs targetted.

- 3 information stalls in Maroubra shopping precinct with photo display boards and campaign billboards

- 2 stencils for campaign messages

- raised A-frame signage and stencilling on campaign car with repeated exposure throughout inner Sydney from Balmain, Glebe, Leichhardt, City, Newtown, Marrickville, Bondi Junction etc value adding the delivery run to 650 outlets for Sydney City Hub newspaper in the last week. At one point local police threatened to defect the car over the height of the A frame.

- support of repeated black stack and letter writing actions (smoking scale model) at Governor Macquarie Tower and Environment Election forum.
According to Noel Plumb our role was equal amongst 4 or 5 other key individuals up to election day.

Regretably, the initiative to expose Premier Carr and the NSW Government's ambiguous position on a future charcoal source from native forests, in contrast to Premier Bracks in Victoria, was actively opposed by some influential environmentalists. But the grassroots campaign has succeeded despite such pressure:

I understand a week out from the March 22 vote the Nature Conservation Council and Total Environment Centre - who receive significant access and funding opportunities from the Carr govt - issued a media release refocusing attention on a revivalist charcoal threat, only after the confession of Minister Debus at the environment election forum 13th March 2003 in Sydney that a future plant was still possible. They added their substantial voice to an already snowballing situation created by grassroots groups calling for the government to rule out charcoal from native forests.

A single media release by TEC and NCC should not be allowed to mask the true positioning taken by certain peak green groups to de-emphasise the revivalist charcoal threat and consequent massive impacts of 200-300k tonnes per year feedstock on forests. There is an ongoing need for accountability to the grassroots activist movement and the general public who want an end to industrial logging of native forests.

I believe that this policy shift has the potential for a more far reaching affect of broad native forest protection much greater than the 65K old growth forest protection decision in the north east: Because it involves a fundamental shift in logging economics. Debus for instance in his media release acknowledges that alternative charcoal sources may come from plantation.

In another related policy area it remains to be seen what the NSW ALP government will achieve with its big ticket $120 million land clearing package. By way of caution the $120 million package on nsw forest protection in 1995-6 involved alot of poor allocation decisions and frustrating lack of underlying change in land use economics.

Strong materials from local south coast Charcoalition here

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17/3/2003...Noel Plumb/SEFA media statement on Minister Debus decision to ban charcoal from native forest pre March 22 election vote

campaign form letter to close out govt revival of the charcoal scheme

10/3/2003...Australian Silicon to the Australian Stock Exchange Decision to Suspend Work on Bankable Feasibility Stud

9/3/2003...woodchips from our forests a miserable $51 a tonne to Japan

6/3/2003... green campaign turns up the election pressure on Carr ALP via SEFA media release here

2/3/2003... Carr ALP electoral play for green vote in NE NSW for marginals there and Sydney evidenced by NEFA report here of 65,000 ha protection decision

26/2/2003...Protesters 'block woodchip ship' at Eden

Feb 2003...webmaster for Charcoalition on local south coast group's internet capacity and see ...

As at 23rd Jan 2005:

The latest development in this south coast and broader NSW campaign is that just prior to Christmas 2004, in a patchy information release mainly to local industry aligned newspapers, the state government confirmed it had given 'resource security' for a big logging firm near Nowra called Davis & Herbert.

The implication of this 72,000 cubic metre per year allocation for 20 years, accounting for one of several other sawmills, is that another 2/3 by proportion will likely be available as 'waste wood'. This traditionally went to woodchips at Eden notorious chipper and port off to Japan. The charcoal project was a substitute for such 'waste', but charcoal or not, the trees in public forest shall be cut down. This is despite burgeoning plantation resource making native forest logging largely redundant. Cynical politics indeed.

This issue is covered with, many links included, at a recent story with the acid title: 'James Woodford PR job application with Carr govt?'

"A recent smh story on the south coast 'old blotchy' big tree [in the Sydney Morning Herald] was music to the govt's ears but natural history writer Woodford has airbrushed the real context and significance of the story ... the only mystery really is why the censorship by ommission?"

 
and refer 2003 leaflet below, ongoing:

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