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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Airwalk threat from logging, say activists

The Mercury: Airwalk threat from logging, say activists [15dec05]

LOGGING on the doorstep of the Tahune Airwalk could destroy Tasmania's fastest growing tourist attraction, say protesters who moved into the area yesterday.

A small group of activists held up logging on a coupe near the Arve Rd from about 6am.

One protester attached himself to an excavator, while others blocked the road until just before 3pm, when they left at the request of police.

Peter Ruggieri, from the Huon Valley Environment Centre, said the independent activists were highlighting the continued destruction of high conservation value forests.

"Today the achievement was to highlight the logging occurring on the doorstep of the fastest growing tourist attraction in Tasmania," Mr Ruggieri said.

He said protesters had moved out once Forestry Tasmania and police had declared an exclusion zone and threatened $20,000 fines.

"The logging is no more than five kilometres from the Airwalk, and shows Forestry isn't serious about eco-tourism," he said.

"The Airwalk is fine by itself at the moment, but in 10 years' time, when there are four times the people coming, what will there be to see?

"Will it just be an island in the plantation?"

Forestry Tasmania's Huon district manager, Steve Davis, said the protest was simply misguided.

"Ninety-five per cent of the old-growth forest in the Huon area is already protected," Mr Davis said.

"Headline seeking protests like this are unproductive and costly to the community and do nothing to promote tourism."

He said the environment centre's suggestion that Forestry Tasmania lacked commitment to ecotourism was at odds with the fact Tahune Airwalk had achieved advanced ecotourism certification from Ecotourism Australia, and was certified under Green Globe 21.

"Protesting near the Airwalk, which a recent report by economist Dr Bruce Felmingham has shown contributes 77 new jobs and generates $1.57 for each $1 spent, is simply pointless," he said.

"These coupes are not being clear-felled.

"They contain a mixture of old growth and regrowth timber and are being harvested using non-clearfelling to keep a selection of old growth trees for shelter, habitat and seed sources."


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