Activists on high alert

Miranda Gibson and Valerie Thompson.
Miranda Gibson and Valerie Thompson.

Dorroughby's Valerie Thompson is no stranger to forest campaigning in Tasmania, her latest sojourn taking her on three-and-a-half hour walk through an exclusion zone (with her five year-old in tow) and a 60-metre climb up to what she believes is Australia's highest tree sit.

Valerie, who has been an activist in the forests of Tasmania on-and-off for a decade, was lending her support to friend Miranda Gibson, who has spent the last six weeks in the 'Observer Tree' at Mt Mueller where she is protesting Forestry Tasmania's continued logging of old growth forests.

The forest is part of 430,000 hectares given protection under the Tasmanian Intergovernmental Forest Agreement which was signed last August. But Valerie says despite promises from the federal and Tasmanian governments that logging would cease, it continues unabated.

Miranda has also been campaigning against Harvey Norman's use of Tasmanian timber in its furniture and Malaysian company Ta Ann, which she says is driving the logging and exporting of timber to Japan where it is falsely advertised as eco-friendly.

Miranda is being supported by a skeleton crew of activists, who must walk through dense forest to the bottom of the tree sit with supplies for themselves and Miranda.

"I really admire what she's doing… I feel there's been a strong sense of despair amongst environmental groups in Tasmania in terms of getting the government to honour its word to protect these nationally significant forests," Valerie said. "While the rest of Australia thinks it is being protected, logging goes on, and one woman stood up to speak out and do something about it.

"This is the headwaters of the Styx, Tyenna and Florentine rivers - it's forest of incredibly high conservation value," Valerie added.

"There's such a crisis of confidence in the government… it's hard to know what to do when the government won't honour its promises, but it's better to do something than stand by and do nothing and watch these forests fall."

Speaking to The Echo from Tasmania, Valerie said logging in the Mt Mueller coupe where Miranda was keeping vigil could begin at any moment.

"They haven't gone in this week, but there's logging nearby and they are due to come in any day, so we're on high alert," she said. "We did an occupation of the Ta An mill today and there's a whole bunch more actions going on at the same time trying to raise awareness."

Greens Senator Bob Brown said since the agreement was signed some 10 square kilometres of forest have been destroyed and another 10 square kilometres are earmarked for immediate destruction.

The $276 million federally-funded agreement was supposed to put an end to most native forest harvesting and Bob Brown recently put a stop to routine meetings with Julia Gillard over the issue.

"The Prime Minister and Premier should honour their own agreement. The spoilers at Forestry Tasmania and the Malaysian logging juggernaut Ta Ann should be evicted from this 430,000 hectares rather than be allowed to chainsaw right through the middle of the agreement," he said.

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