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March 30, 2010 4:38PM | AAP
PROTESTERS say they have forced a temporary halt to woodchip logging near the last known koala colony on the NSW south coast near Bega.
State Forests NSW started logging in the Mumbulla and Murrah state forests yesterday.
About 40 local people and conservationists were engaged in a “tense stand-off” with forestry staff since protesters began a vigil at the Mumbulla state forest at 7am (AEDT) today.
The protest group said local forestry staff had stopped harvesting work in the disputed forest area until further koala survey work had been carried out.
Conservationists claim logging will destroy koala habitats and lead to the extinction of a colony of 30 to 50 koalas.
The NSW State Government, which signed off on the logging, has denied koalas were at risk.
Forestry Minister Ian Macdonald said today he was satisfied with the koala surveys carried out.
“By arrangement with the department of environment … we’ve identified the areas where those koalas exist and we won’t be harvesting those areas,” he said. “The koalas are entirely safe.”
But Prue Acton from South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA) said the koala assessments were a joke.
“There was one survey done, on one day, of a 17 metre area, that was it,” the fashion designer said.
“They haven’t found any koalas because they haven’t surveyed the area (properly).”
Ms Acton urged Premier Kristina Keneally to intervene and protect the animals.
“Mumbulla forest is right next to where we know there are 30 to 50 koalas,” she said.
“We’re just saying to Keneally ‘Don’t kiss koalas goodbye’.
“Or your children or your grandchildren will only ever see them in zoos.”
Ms Acton said the Mumbulla forest and its koalas were a tourism drawcard and need protection.
She said no harvesting work had gone ahead this afternoon although some trees were felled in the morning and prepared for the chip mill.
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said Mr Macdonald’s assurances the koalas were safe could not be trusted.”He does not understand the issue here,” she said.
“It’s not about saving a few trees, it’s about saving koala habitat.
“Koalas don’t just live in one or two trees, they live in a forest.”
Comment is being sought from State Forests NSW.