Amidst the escalating logging within the proposed Great Koala National Park area, the Uniting Church’s Forest Advocacy Ministry joined with others on Gumbaynggirr Country on 25-28 August to witness to the destruction of endangered species’ habitat and call for its urgent protection.

Forest Advocacy Ministry participants at Newry Forest. Photo by Finn Lawson-John.

Forest Advocacy Ministry participants visited Newry Forest, where harvesting is temporarily suspended due to a legal action brought by Gumbaynggirr Elder Uncle Micklo Jarrett; Pine Creek Forest, where logging is planned later in the year; Tuckers Nob, where plantation forest has recently been clear-felled and burned, destroying habitat for koalas and other threatened species including frogs; and Oakes Forest, whose precious river headwaters are under imminent threat.

The Uniting Church affirms that God’s creation is good in and of itself, as well as in sustaining human life. In a 1991 statement on the Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations, the Church asserted that: “No creature is indifferent in the eyes of God. Each has its dignity and thereby also its right to existence.”

Former Uniting Church Moderator the Rev. Niall Reid said, “Mature forests are critical habitat. Birds and animals rely on tree hollows. Koalas require several different species of tree for food and forage in a specific, limited area.

“Simply planting more trees does not ameliorate the loss incurred by logging. Next to nothing is spared in the clear felling of the forests, old growth or plantation, and a barren landscape is all that is left, denuded of vegetation and responsible for the mass deaths of animals.”

In its 1988 Statement to the Nation in 1988, the Uniting Church committed to “identify and challenge all structures and attitudes which perpetuate and compound the destruction of creation”.

Mr Reid continued, “To my mind the NSW government ministers are already quite aware of the facts and the consequences of their lack of action to stop the logging in the Great Koala National Park area and so will have as their legacy and be remembered for being instrumental in the extinction of the koala in this region.

“While this continues there is no justice for the forests, the animals which inhabit them, the Aboriginal peoples whose sacred sites are desecrated, or the people who live in and around them. The forests are sacred, created by God and, even if there is need to harvest some resources from them, should be treated with respect and awe.”

Dr Miriam Pepper, Forest Advocacy Ministry secretary, said, “Industrial native forest logging in NSW operates at a loss of millions of dollars a year. Native forests are worth more standing. It is high time that our government invested public money in alternatives that benefit both the community and the forests and turned its attention to a transition plan for workers.”

Forest Advocacy Ministry participants heard from a range of community groups across the weekend: the Forest Ecology Alliance and Friends of Newry, whose citizen science and awareness raising efforts are part of the movement to protect Newry Forest; Friends of Pine Creek, who are proposing protection of a Forest Bridge to provide crucial habitat connectivity; Friends of Tuckers Nob and Friends of Orara East, who were distressed and angry about the destruction of the forests, the impacts of clearing on neighbours, and their dealings with the NSW Forestry Corporation; Friends of Kalang Headwaters, who are maintaining a vigil in Oaks Forest; Friends of Conglomerate and the Knitting Nannas.

Uniting Church minister the Rev. Dr Jason John noted that the rapid escalation of Forestry operations within the proposed Great Koala National Park area was being matched by a rapid increase in the efforts of these local residents to halt operations, through political processes, community engagement, and direct action. He concluded, “All are needed for these forests, because these forests are for us all. We write the future of these forests- every bough and every tree. Every bird in every hollow. We all determine their tomorrow.”