By Jed Lanyon
A Romsey logging contractor working in the Castella Logging Coupe has said that anti-logging protesters who tied themselves to his machinery delayed him from helping build fire containment lines at the Bunyip State Park Bushfire on Saturday 2 March.
Mr Meyer said he was called in to help fight at some local fires by VicForests on Saturday, but six machines, including two bulldozers and a harvester, were unusable due to the protests.
“I got a phone call at Saturday morning at 10.30am from VicForests requesting some of our machinery to go to the fires,” Mr Meyer said.
“I said my crew is ready to roll whenever they need it, but the problem we’ve got is our machinery is tied up with the (protesters) … I think we moved the machines out at about seven or eight o’clock at night.”
Since 20 February the Forest Conservation Victoria group had been holding a protest preventing logging operations in Toolangi, after volunteer citizen scientists reported finding a critically endangered Barred Galaxias fish species in the area.
As part of the protest, one protester was suspended 30 metres high on a tree-sit platform, and was tied to Mr Meyer’s machinery for several days.
Jake McKenzie from Victorian Forest Alliance said that following police arrival at 4pm on Saturday 2 March protestors fulfilled their request to leave the area and the tree sitter came down immediately.
“Police rocked up to the camp at about four o’clock in the afternoon. That was when we were first notified and no request was refused. One logging machine left the area within a couple hours,” Mr McKenzie said.
“If these contractors weren’t in here, where they’re not supposed to be, logging threatened species’ habitat then it wouldn’t have been an issue.
“There are a number of machines throughout the area they could have grabbed, they didn’t need to come in and grab this one that was tied off.
VicForests refuted the claims that they selected the machinery based on the premise of the protest and confirmed that the Department of Environment, Land and Water and Planning (DELWP) made a request to utilise timber harvesting machinery for fire fighting efforts including machinery in the Castella quarry coupe.
The spokesperson also confirmed that there were difficulties accessing the machinery in one of the coupes due to protest activity at the time.
“Suggestions that the machinery in Castella Quarry was specifically selected due to ongoing protester activity is inaccurate and misleading,” a spokesperson said.
“The request to access the machinery was made by DELWP, not VicForests.”