Logging trucks have been filmed leaving an ancient forest, weeks after timber workers locked Indigenous elders out of their cultural lands and began felling trees.
NSW government-owned Forestry Corporation told Yahoo News Australia it “voluntarily paused operations” across Newry State Forest while an application for an injunction is considered by the courts.
Gumbaynggirr Elder Aunty Alison told Yahoo News Australia she felt “so good” being able to step back onto her cultural lands on the Mid North Coast again. “My heart feels whole again, I’m just so relieved,” she said.
Other elders shed tears after the final trucks vacated their land, following a weeks-long protest against the logging operation they maintain they were not consulted about.
Dispute over consultation with Indigenous custodians
Forestry Corporation maintains its planning always includes “consultation with the Aboriginal community”, but it is yet to respond to questions from Yahoo News Australia about whether this included the Gumbaynggirr community before it entered Newry State Forest.
“The operation in Newry State Forest has been conducted in line with the strict conditions regulating native forestry in NSW which have been developed with the input of expert scientific panels to protect and maintain wildlife habitat, forest flora, water quality and biodiversity across the landscape,” a Forestry Corporation spokesperson said.
While the timber harvesting has stopped, under an agreement reached between the two parties, felled trees can be removed by Forestry Corporation so it can complete necessary safety, environmental or remediation works.
Legal action was brought against the company in the Land and Environment Court, and it initially agreed to an undertaking to stop logging operations in Newry State Forest until Friday. The matter remains before the court and an adjournment was sought on Friday.
Gumbaynggirr custodian Sandy Greenwood said seeing Forestry Corporation leave the Newry coup was a “historic” win.
“We are just relieved and feeling very positive,” she said. “We didn’t think this day would come. I’ve been fighting for my elders and to hear their cries of happiness makes the fight worthwhile.”
Ms Greenwood said elders will be surveying the forest over the next few days and they are working to end all native forest logging on Gumbaynggirr Country.
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