Steel spikes have been found driven into a road in an East Gippsland forest that is used by forest workers and the public, an act described as “eco-terrorism” by the State Opposition. In March, VicForests was notified about two steel spikes that had been driven into Playgrounds Road in the Bonang State Forest, creating an extremely dangerous hazard on the road, which is used by the forest industry and the public. Source: Philip Hopkins for Timberbiz
The site was made as safe as possible, including painting the spikes yellow and blocking access to where the spikes were until they were removed. The incident was reported to Victoria Police.
A VicForests spokesperson said the government agency was extremely disappointed and concerned that someone could have been injured or worse because they were unaware that dangerous spikes had been driven into the road.
“We take people’s safety very seriously and these potentially life-threatening activities are always reported to Victoria Police,” the spokesperson said.
The Opposition spokesman on forestry, Gary Blackwood, said this action by a small number of radical greens amounted to eco-terrorism.
“It endangers the lives of so many local residents, timber workers and VicForests employees,” he said.
The radicals had no respect for the rule of law.
“They are targeting the timber industry despite numerous court decisions ruling timber harvesting is being conducted legally and in accord with RFAs and harvesting codes and prescriptions,” he said. “It is a sad day when forest protestors stoop to this level, targeting honest, hardworking forest workers.”
Mr Blackwood, who is the member for Narracan in Gippsland, said the radicals should stop these “gutless acts of eco terrorism” and instead engage the Government in a constructive policy discussion.
The Member for East Gippsland, Tim Bull, said those responsible for putting spikes in the ground could be described as “the lowest of the low”.
“They live behind this fantasy that they can justify it, when in fact all they are doing is putting people at risk,” he said.
“They really are ‘lowlifes’ with no morals whatsoever who need to think of the potential repercussions on fellow humans.”
A Victorian government spokesperson said the Government respected the right to protest but would not tolerate illegal or dangerous behaviour.
“The Government has dedicated additional resources to minimise disruption to the forestry industry in response to illegal protest activity,” she said.
Last year in Tasmania, a number of long metal spikes were driven into trees about to be harvested. The concealed spikes were discovered just before the logs went through a sawmill.
The chief executive of the Australian Forest Products Association, Ross Hampton, said had the spikes been run through a saw, spinning at enormous speed, it could have meant death or serious injury for plant operators nearby.
Mr Hampton said for this reason, AFPA had supported reforms to charities regulations that could strip extremist groups of their charitable status if they committed or incited criminal activities.
“Forestry operations are regular targets for these illegal activities, costing the industry millions of dollars a year in disruptions and distress to forestry workers, who are often intimidated, threatened and harassed by protestors,” he said.
The Victorian Government maintains that timber harvesting operations are dangerous and the coupes in which they occur are strictly controlled workplaces. The following rules apply:
- Timber harvesting safety zones (THSZs) are established for the purpose of maintaining public safety. This includes preventing death or serious injury to workers, authorised persons and the public while timber harvesting operations are active.
- Once declared, only authorised persons are allowed to enter THSZs or remain in them, fines can be issued by Authorised Officers or Victoria Police to those illegally entering them.
- VicForests reports illegal protests to authorities and attends coupes to facilitate entry and exit by responding officers.
- The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions funds and manages the statewide deployment of Authorised Officers. These Authorised Officers are empowered to direct protesters to leave coupes and issue on the spot fines.
- Victoria Police attends illegal protests where more serious offences are suspected and/or protesters have locked on to equipment and/or erected tree sits. Victoria Police officers can arrest and charge protesters.
- Under the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 (Vic) maximum fines include: 20 penalty units for refusing or failing to leave a THSZ when directed by an Authorised Officer; 20 penalty units for failing to stop or move a vehicle in a THSZ as directed by an Authorised Officer; and 60 penalty units for breaking down, damaging or destroying a fence erected in a THSZ.