A tenacious tea party

Last night I met a quoll. It was fossicking about our camp in the wilds of takayna / Tarkine. When I was a child we called them “native cats” and they were famous for slaughtering our chickens. That was in the Blue Mountains in the 1960s. None have been sighted there for decades.

Today I’m in the northwest of Tasmania, supporting Bob Brown Foundation’s stand to protect some of the world’s oldest Aboriginal sacred sites and the largest intact tract of cool temperate rainforests from logging, vehicular abuse and unsustainable mining.

I am here in this spot, because the Wedge-tailed Eagles nest here in the tall, old trees. And each year in this place, by the Frankland River, they raise their fledglings. They are protected. They are endangered in Tasmania.

Last week a small mob of us visited the logging operations near Rapid River. Just a few valleys east of here. We had a tea party.

Three men and three machines had, in a matter of days, smashed down a forest of giant eucalypts, certainly some of the biggest in Australia, possibly the world; ancient myrtles that were old and tall long before Labillardiere landed on our shores in 1792; Celery top pines that grow nowhere else in the world; and the shy Sassafras, famous for its wonderful essential oils and unusual smoky brown/grey/black timber prized throughout the world.

What broke my heart was the fact that the vast majority of these rare, threatened and priceless trees were pushed into burn piles, awaiting annihilation by fire. No! Not carefully placed aside for Tasmania’s artisan furniture makers, but pushed into piles to burn as soon as they are dry.

My grandfather, my father and uncle, were timber men in the 1940s-60s. I know they would be appalled at the waste. They were not wasteful men, they would use a whole single tree to build a house. They would carefully remove a rainforest tree to build their beehives and furniture, leaving the forest intact, to live, to grow on. They would use every part of it the tree; stem branch and leaves. Nothing was wasted. The destruction of this gentle tender forest, 65 million years in the making, by industrial timber extracting machines designed for plantations, not native forests, is nothing less than a crime.

A couple of decades ago, Forestry Tasmania in all its wisdom decided to allow massive plantings of hybrid species across the island - more than a million hectares. They were meant to be fast-growing, industry-specific timbers that would get them out of native forests forever. Now they are back in there, in their impatience, slaughtering these last, ancient homes of masked owls, goshawks and eagles to make up unsustainable woodchip, peeler and veneer quotas. This is because the plantations were not managed for sawn timber, they were managed for pulp.

I love Tasmania. My family have a long and strong connection with this place.

I am ashamed that it has come to this.

That I, a grandmother of three, have come to sit here in this bush, so that my grandchildren, and theirs, may, just possibly may,  get to see some of these ancient giants. To play hide and seek around the trunks of eucalypts, to meet the quoll with its cute whiskers and gorgeous spots strolling along a mossy log, before they are gone. Because when they are gone, they are gone forever.

What will you do to make sure it doesn’t happen on your watch? Please take action. Please join us while there’s something left to save, so you can look you grandchildren in the eye and say, “we saved this, please look after it.”

Alice Hungerford

 


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