Extinction Rebellion protestors rallied outside of Bega Shire Council today in response to the ruling by the Land and Environment Court on October 15, that the DA for the Eden chip mill expansion was "invalid".
The ruling was the second time the DA had been successfully challenged in the Land and Environment Court by South East Forest Rescue (SEFR), which was represented by the Environmental Defenders Office.
Protestors gathered at 11:30am on Wednesday October 20, ahead of the Council meeting to re-vote on the Development Application at 2:00pm.
They stood at the Council's front entrance with placards and a musician named The Lone Drummer, who played the drums to bring attention to the action.
"We came here today to show our opposition to the Development Application that is regarding the optimisation hub at the chip mill expansion that is being put to Council for the third time," said a spokesperson from the group.
"The Bega Valley Shire Council has already declared that we are in a climate emergency and we believe that they are still acting in the interest of corporations and private business instead of protecting and preserving our native forests here on the South Coast.
"It's hard to imagine because we lost 80% of our South East forests during the bushfire, and they've just opened that up for logging."
The group's spokesperson also indicated that they were there to oppose the logging of native forests more generally speaking and advocated for the end of native logging entirely.
"We know that with the current science that deforestation leads to more intense and frequent bushfires, desertification, flooding and all sorts of added climate events.
"We're acting in self-defence and trying to preserve and protect our native forests," said the spokesperson.
Councillor Cathy Griff spoke to BDN during the event about her position
She said that although the decision on whether or not the expansion should be approved was already clear between counsellors due to their prior votes, the fact remains that the community dissent expressed in the 165 objections to the expansion needed to be taken into account.
She said the objections were almost exclusively about the extraction of the timber from the forest and not specifically critiquing the application that claimed no additional timber would be taken for the expansion.
Cr Griff expressed that she thought the voice of the community needed to be heard.
She said regardless of the company's status to extract timber from the forests, these objections should have been deemed relevant enough to send the matter to Council in the first instance.
"Normally forest issues don't come to Council, it's purely a state issue because it's the state that issues the agreements for them to extract from the forest, so this is a bit of an unusual thing.
"The reason this has happened is because the Environmental Defenders Office are finding technicalities in the case, not the fundamental issue and this is where the problem lies.
"The real fundamental question is, how can one separate this from what the chip mill does, this extended use, and yet that's exactly what's happened."
Cr Griff said the "incredibly strong grip" of the logging industry in the region was, "partly due to the tradition of this is what Eden has done for decades".
She also mentioned the jobs that would be impacted, but said the number of jobs was always, "a question mark" as it could not be stipulated exactly how many jobs would be impacted.
She advocated for just transitions for workers and mentioned that other countries such as Spain and Germany had made their transitions "without job losses".
"The industry is dealing with a diminishing recourse, and so inevitably these jobs are going to have to be lost or transitioned, so we're just saying let's bite the bullet now."
She said it would take federal and state resolution to do the sort of retraining required but the ultimately the skills of forestry employees would be key to adapt to other industries such as growing plantations or using their deep knowledge of the forests to support tourism in the area.
The result of the meeting on Wednesday October 20, was that all councillors upheld their prior votes with Crs Fitzpatrick, Bain, Nadin and Allen voting in favour and Crs Griff, Seckold and Dodds voting against the DA.
- More to come