Image for Lapoinya: A slow walk ...


A slow walk of destruction with three friends in the Lapoinya rainforest was not how my day was planned … but the ghost of something in that bush was bigger than me.

As a curious visitor to the little hamlet behind the coast on the far North-West I was thrust into a world which seemed not only vaguely familiar but immediately under threat.

A handful of locals had over the years displayed the sensitivity to create a haven for themselves in Lapoinya when those around them were still emerging from the hard-bitten life of farming and forestry.  But the bulldozers had returned to shatter any illusions that they were in control of their destiny.

Standing there on the destroyed section of rainforest, my friends were environmental man of peace Dr Bob Brown, his partner Paul Thomas and my friend of nearly 50 years, Roger Bradley.

As we stared into the eyes of four well-prepared policemen, pleasant and professional, yet portraying an air of unrelenting authority, it was obvious. the power of the state was not just something that existed in other countries.

It had taken hold of our small state here in Australia’s deep south, driven by an unrelenting ignorance, a lack of sensitivity and the complete failure of generations of questionable politicians drawn from a small gene pool and slow to realise the world outside had changed ...

That Forestry Tasmania and their combative minister could decide to decimate this pristine 100 acre section of forest,  selectively logged 60 years ago but   retaining   rare plant species stretching back millions of years, seemed spiteful, especially after the local people had offered to buy the land they have cherished.

Why this offer was refused may have something to do with the report by Professor Jonathan West, whose warnings that Forestry Tasmania was over-reaching itself had been dismissed out of hand by our own Legislative Councillors.

As chairman of the Independent Verification Group of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement, he said: “Forestry Tasmania had been committed to harvesting sawlogs (including plantations) at about double the sustainable yields.’

It appears Resources Minister Paul Harriss and his dwindling band of executives clearly have decided they will make their mark by proving the good professor wrong and have targeted every standing coupe of iconic tree species, much to feed the shareholders of the shady company Ta Ann.

Amid the sounds of massive trees thumping into the ground the surreal sensation of watching the clearly-distressed Bob Brown refusing police orders to leave, was matched only by the more surreal sound of myself also refusing, despite the clear and threatening consequences posed by the State.

Perhaps that need to protest was driven from a deep realisation that I was standing in the same land my forefathers had settled, where my father and his six elder sisters were born, and where my grandfather and grandmother had forged a hard living in the backwoods behind Wynyard during and after the First World War.

Perhaps that need to protest was driven from a deep realisation that I was standing in the same land my forefathers had settled, where my father and his six elder sisters were born, and where my grandfather and grandmother had forged a hard living in the backwoods behind Wynyard during and after the First World War.

The stories of my Auntie Kath Doherty came flooding back of a life of hardship , tempered by a loving extended family. Her writing tells of a family living on the aptly named Hyena Rock Road, and of the day in 1919 when the whole region came alive after my grandfather Frank Upston, captured a live Thylacine, then known in Tasmania as a hyena.

Auntie Kath (who would be 100 now if she was still with us)  writes: “ It is rare today to meet anyone who has had a personal encounter with a Thylacine. I purposely evade the word seen because the beauty of any true nocturnal animal is seen only as a wraith, a spectre of the scrublands, in the half-light of early morning or late dusk.

A captive Thylacine, a wolf-like animal with zebra-like stripes, gave a sorry picture of the real animal.’

She goes on, “ By 1916 the Australian Army abroad had made an impression on world armies, but back in Lapoinya the price of pelts was more interesting to my parents than the valour of our men.

“For that cold winter my dad had decided to try his hand at snaring. The German blockage had bought the subsistence farmers to their knees.

“James Harrison at Wynyard was offering 25 pounds for live hyenas, and this price could mostly be bettered by Professor Flynn of the Tasmanian State University.  These gentlemen would place the animal in foreign zoos for upward of 300 pounds.”

On reflection it could have been the Lapoinya manfern, an extremely rare million-year-old species with the appearance of a softer and friendlier common man fern,  laying crushed at my feet, that caused me to revolt in the face of these overwhelming odds, or perhaps it was that I felt I owed it to my family to give something back to this beautiful country.

The story of the capture of the thylacine was not something that was discussed widely my family, but neither was it a secret, just something done to maintain the family in overwhelming times. That it may have been close to one of the last remaining of the species was far from being realised, and came after a government push to wipe out the “big dog’.

And now the remaining sections of the great southern temperate rainforest that sustained that iconic animal, along with the giant freshwater crayfish,  a myriad of marsupial species, and botanical species millions of years old, is now part of a bigger scheme involving politicians’ egos, rampaging banks and overseas interests, while the taxpayers’ bill to prop it all up is fast approaching one billion dollars over many years of folly.

The fact that the destruction of the Lapionya coupe will provide a handful of jobs for a few months seems to have been overlooked.

In a strange twist my friend Roger decided to go with Bob; to be taken off with Bob by police, while I was escorted out with Paul by a policeman and fined $308 for refusing to obey a police officer.

Both men now have to face the full force of a law designed by ultra-right-wing politicians, including fines up to an eye-watering $10,000, for daring to believe they could change things.

Instead of enjoying his time as a grandfather of four, about to become five, Roger, a hardworking and resilient man in his 68th year,  now has to endure the abuse and criticism of not only his long-time friends and neighbours, but also members of his own family, one of whom taunted him with homophobic slurs that come from years of paranoia engendered by those who have been told the only employment they could ever get is in destroying the environment.

But ... some of those neighbours have also offered to pay his fine. Now that is just so admirable ...

The machinery used to smash apart this piece of Tasmania was operating while barely 90 kilometres it could have been used to save pristine areas in the Tarkine which were on fire for the first time in thousands of years.

Tourist areas being slowly opened up by guides like Rob Saltmarsh of Marrawah, with magical names like the Milkshakes Reserve,  the buttongrass areas of the Dempster Plains, and the eons-old cushion plants around Lake McKenzie, have now been destroyed and will be only a memory in the minds of those who were lucky enough to visit them before they too became the victims of the ignorance and spitefulness of the right-wing echelon that would label climate scientists and organisations as international conspirators.

Have my four friends and thousands of others learned our lesson and decided to bow to the fact that destruction and authority is inevitable and the world we are leaving behind for our children will be a barren, corporate world driven by profit at any cost…..?

I think not, and in Bob’s case I know he and millions of like-minded citizens of this planet, will not change anything in their courageous attempts to break through the ignorance that is so much a part of modern culture.

Sign this PETITION for the Right to peaceful protest in Tasmania

Roger Bradley: We want to secede

From wet sclerophyll to dry sclerophyll forests

*Tim Upston has spent a lifetime as a journalist. He is also a surfer ...

Blair Richards, Mercury: Forestry’s $480,000 consultants’ splurge FORESTRY Tasmania has spent almost half a million dollars on consultants, much of it on reports informing the State Government’s efforts to restructure the forest industry. Labor is calling for the release of reports to allow Tasmanians to get the full picture on Forestry Tasmania’s viability and the state of the forest industry. However, Resources Minister Paul Harriss says the reports are either Cabinet or commercial in confidence. Documents released after a Right to Information request from Labor show that between December 2014 and July last year Forestry Tasmania spent $481,779 on external consultants. The spending included ...

• Chris in Comments: Good to see this state (in photo above) prosecuting bogans from Tasmania for protesting. (ignore illegal destruction of tree ferns nearby.) The same type of martial law utilised in Putin’s territory. Do not protest; we will severely hurt you. Will Will prosecute you to the final limit of the law, throw you in gaol and make a criminal of you, (like Gay) who also destroyed our native forests and contributed to the Lib/Lab via the government grants so willingly given to allow Forestry Tasmania and Gunns to operate while bankrupt.