Environment Magazine

Australia: Move to Evict Anti-Mining Protesters Blocked

Posted on the 23 January 2014 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal


by Peter Hannam / SMH

Moves by police and the Rural Fire Service to remove protesters from two mining areas in the Leard and Pilliga state forests have been stymied after a last-minute intervention by a councillor.

Narrabri Shire Council had been planning to evict the dozens of protesters from Crown land outside the forests about a week after Forestry Corporation of NSW closed the two forests to the public until the fire season ends on March 31.

No other forest was closed for the whole fire season, prompting complaints from environmental groups and a firefighters’ union that the closures were prompted by politics rather than concerns about fire risk.

Bevan O’Regan, 80, who has served on the Narrabri Shire Council for 31 years, said he and two other councillors lodged a motion on Thursday blocking the council’s plan to force protesters to leave the road verges they were occupying outside the forests.

At least 10 protesters have been arrested in recent weeks at the Leard forest as campaigners increase efforts to halt construction of the Maules Creek open-cut coalmine owned by Whitehaven Coal.

Separate protests in the Pilliga forest are aimed at halting coal seam gas exploration and production by Santos.

“I put a stopper to any action” by the council, Mr O’Regan said.

The council will meet on February 4 to vote on the suspension. The possibility of an appeal could delay an eviction for another 28 days, he said.

The delay will particularly help campaigners near the Maules Creek site, who are planning a big protest next Tuesday.

“It’s getting closer to the time when they will seriously start clearing the forest,” said Georgina Woods, a spokeswoman for the Leard Forest Alliance.

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