By Kath Gannaway. 21st February 2012 02:00:28 AM
As someone who has made the bus and train trip into Melbourne’s Supreme Court for every sitting of what he says is a gruelling battle between MyEnvironment and VicForests over the logging of three Toolangi coupes, he is a relative newcomer to the decades-old right to log debate.
Standing on the steps of the court last week with fellow environmentalists, he said there was a common misconception about the need for dreadlocks and a Centrelink payment as a precursor to having a genuine concern for the environment.
He and his wife Marion are committed to stopping clear-fell logging which they believe will push the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum to extinction.
“The ‘greenie’ thing is not what it’s about. It’s about the flora and fauna that we are losing by clear-fell logging. “I don’t believe, from what I’ve seen with my own eyes, that VicForests are working to the standards,” he said.
The suits and black legal robes of team VicForests are equally a long way from the clichéd, check shirt image of the loggers and haulage contractors they are representing.
Standing outside the Supreme Court is the legal team, including Ian Waller SC, barrister Hamish Redd, VicForests general counsel Josephine Tan and solicitor Rebecca Howe. The battleground seems a long way from the tall timbers of Toolangi and the on-ground jobs they say are under threat.
VicForests spokesman David Walsh says they are equally committed to their role and defends the clear-fell logging model that VicForests say is not only legally sanctioned by the State Government and DSE, but which they argue is sustainable and no threat to the possum.
“We recognise the importance of balancing these interests, and maintain that no area which meets the criteria for Leadbeater’s Possum habitat zones was planned for harvest,” Mr Walsh said. “We hope the findings of the court provide clarity around these issues.”
Having sat through eight days of evidence Mr Lewis says the arguments can be mind-boggling at times, but that he is hopeful, even quietly confident, of a good outcome for the Toolangi forests.
“I’m more convinced than ever that clear-fell logging is a very real threat to Leadbeater’s Possum,” he said.
“It’s like shooting rhinoceros because of the value of their horn; no-one would say that’s right, but we’re being asked to trade off these creatures for the dollars that come out of the forests.
“They have a right to live, and they have a right to live in Toolangi,” he said