#leardblockade state of play report by @lockthegate campaigner @georgefwoods

Meme by @bustersdah

Meme by @bustersdah

By Georgina Woods  @georgefwoods
Memes by Lee Skelton  @bustersdah

11th March 2014

The action continues on the ground at the blockade of Leard State Forest, to defend the forest from clearfelling for two open cut coal mines.

The campaign is bringing traditional owners, environmentalists, farmers and climate change activists together, because Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine, in particular, epitomises the short- and long-term damage and degradation being wrought by the expansion of the coal industry in NSW and across Australia.

Last week, a tripod was erected to prevent access to Whitehaven’s coal loading facility at Gunnedah, and Narrabri Shire Council’s latest attempt to bully the protesters from their camp on a local farm is being met with staunch resistance from the farmer hosting them.

In the past two days, a young man established a tree-top vigil in an area of critically endangered woodland slated for clearing for the Boggabri mine.

Today, a prayer vigil is being held in the forest by inter-faith people from the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.

Whitehaven recently suffered the embarrassment of being contradicted by the Department of Environment.

The company claimed that it was “totally ridiculous” for community activists to describe the investigation into their use of false and misleading information to obtain their approval as a “criminal investigation”, only to have the Department for the Environment confirm, in conversation with the Northern Daily Leader, that this was indeed what they were doing.

See the No Fibs report of the Senate evidence confirming a criminal investigation into Whitehaven’s environmental offsets claims.

The false and misleading information at issue is the description of the offsets proposed by Whitehaven as compensation for the loss of over 500 hectares of critically endangered woodland. Three independent ecologists’ reports have now confirmed that the offset sites do not harbour the area of critically endangered woodland claimed by Whitehaven.

In Parliament last week, a motion was passed establishing a Senate inquiry into the practise of biodiversity offsetting in general, with specific reference to the Maules Creek project. The committee is due to report on June 16, but by then, and by the time the Department of Environment concludes their criminal investigation into Whitehaven, the irreplaceable Leard State Forest might be lost forever.

No-one in government seems to think that a temporary stay of execution is warranted, despite the deepening scandal, and growing protest movement.

The upshot for the community is that we have to do the Environment Minister’s job for him, and stop the clearing of the forest, while building pressure for an eleventh hour rescue. Already, parts of Leard forest have been cleared for the Maules Creek Mine and the Boggabri expansion, but the rescue team will swell in numbers again at the end of this month, when the third large-scale gathering is due to take place there.

In Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, information nights are being held to spread the word and get people out to join the blockade. The camp that is established there now is ready for you, any time.

George’s first piece for No Fibs on the #leardblockade was on January 16, Can Leard forest be saved? – before Margo Kingston reported blockade action. Our #leardblockade archive is here.

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