Logging activists hold ‘funeral service’ in Pine Creek State Forest

Logging protesters hold a ‘funeral service’ in Compartment 14 of the Pine Creek State Forest. Photo: Friends of Pine Creek.

ON FRIDAY 15 March, conservationists from across the Bellinger Valley and Coffs Coast gathered in Pine Creek State Forest, south of Coffs Harbour, in a compartment of forest recently subject to a Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) harvesting operation, to mourn the loss of key koala habitat.

The Friends of Pine Creek, a community-led group fighting to protect the state forest, says the recently-logged site, Compartment 14, is a designated koala hub, an area that has supported multiple, consecutive generations of wild koalas, and is identified by the NSW Government as primary habitat important to the species’ long-term survival.

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FCNSW said plantations in Pine Creek State Forest are managed in a broader forested landscape and adjoin large areas of native forest and National Park.

A FCNSW spokesperson said while koalas are known to live in this area, Forestry Corporation has put specific measures in place to protect them including protecting additional areas for habitat alongside drainage lines; ensuring operators are trained in koala search and identification and inspect every tree before felling; and having protocols in place to temporarily cease operations when koalas are identified.

Despite these measures, the Friends of Pine Creek have been devastated by the recent completion of harvesting plans.

“The complete destruction of these public forests, so important to the future of our koalas, is a national disgrace,” said John Pile, spokesperson for the Friends of Pine Creek group.

The event was commemorated with a symbolic funeral service for the last koala of Compartment 14, attended by a group of concerned local residents including Bellingen Shire councillor Jennie Fenton and City of Coffs Harbour councillor Jonathan Cassell and presided over by Reverend Jason John, a local deacon and ‘Forest Chaplain’.

“I attended today to mourn the destruction of this important koala habitat, and to support those who are aggrieved by the tearing down of such a beautiful natural cathedral, so that we can press on to save others,” Reverend John said.

Cr Jennie Fenton questioned the NSW Labor Government’s commitment to saving the koala from extinction while it “continues to approve the continued destruction of critically important koala habitat”.

Pine Creek State Forest and the adjoining Bongil Bongil National Park form the heart of the proposed Great Koala National Park.

Friends of Pine Creek have prepared a comprehensive proposal called the ‘Forest Bridge’, which links Bongil Bongil National Park to the nearby Bindarri National Park by creating a conservation corridor through part of Pine Creek State Forest.

“The Forestry Corporation have completed harvesting plans and intend to clear-fall four more nearby compartments in Pine Creek State Forest in the next three months,” Mr Pile said.

“All of them provide vital homes for our koalas and we have photographic evidence of koalas within those compartments,” he said.

“They are turning the Great Koala National Park into the Great Koala Funeral Park.”

Cr Jonathan Cassell said the majority of NSW citizens want “koala habitat in public forests protected
and this madness to stop”.

“They will not cease protesting until it does,” he said.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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