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Midway in the Media

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Protesters storm port

These two women were among four protesters who yesterday locked themselves to a Japanese ship docked in Geelong Port. Wednesday, July 26, 2006 Julie McNamara

WOODCHIPPING protesters caused Geelong port's second security scare in just over a month when 15 conservationists managed to board a vessel bound for Japan yesterday.

Six of the protesters were charged after police search and rescue units travelled from Melbourne to cut them from the Meridian loaded with 40,000 tonnes of woodchips.

Last month a ship's skipper issued the highest security alert possible after a drunk sailor threatened to blow up a vessel in Corio Bay which was carrying more than 30,000 tonnes of fertiliser.

Four of the conservationists yesterday latched themselves to the woodchip-laden ship using metal sleeves, while two more chained themselves to its conveyor belt.

A police media spokeswoman said the six people were charged with numerous offences relating to trespassing under the Maritime Security Act and had been bailed to appear in Geelong Magistrates' Court on August 18.

Those charged were two men aged 21 and 30 from Warrnambool, a 23-year-old North Carlton man, 21-year-old Northcote man and two West Brunswick women aged 16 and 24. Other protesters waiting outside the dock's gates yesterday said they had already exited the ship after helping chain their friends to the vessel about 5.30am.

Police didn't cut the chains of the remaining protesters until 12pm.

Speaking on his mobile phone while still chained on the Meridian, protester David Hammerton said the group wasn't worried about being arrested. ``It's pretty clear that we are going to be arrested and I think all of us are willing to take responsibility for our actions,`` Mr Hammerton said.

``We are taking a stand to say that Steve Bracks should take responsibility for his actions in destroying our native and old growth forest.''

Mr Hammerton refused to comment on how they boarded the ship but general manager of Toll Geelong Port Lindsay Ward said the protesters gained entry via the gangway.

``Port security was certainly aware of the protesters' presence before they gained entry and police were alerted and the port's standard operating procedures were acted in accordance with these types of protests, which are not uncommon,'' he said.

``During these types of protest the primary aim is to ensure safety of port personnel and the protesters is maintained at all times.''

Mr Ward said the incident didn't require heightened security and had had minimal impact on the port's operation as the ship wasn't due to depart until today.

``Obviously we've informed the Department of Transport of the protesters but port security has remained the same at level one,'' he said. ``It's a small group of protesters who do not constitute a security threat.''

Protest group spokesman Mark Tyler said the Bracks Government needed to act by protecting native forests from the export woodchipping industry before it was too late.

A Midway spokeswoman said the company had no comment to make yesterday.

Bluegums for comic books

The Colac Herald, Friday, August 11, 2006

p3 Japanese company to establish plantation

By David McKenzie

Japan's largest comic book company will establish a bluegum plantation at Gellibrand despite residents opposing the plan.

Kodansha Treefarm Australia has hired Midway Plantations to establish, manage and harvest the 59 hectare plantation.

But Gellibrand residents and environmentalists opposed the plan, claiming the trees would affect water flows and pollute the area.

Colac Otway Shire Council approved the plantation on Wednesday, although three of the seven councillors voted against it.

The plantation would be on land within an "environmental significance overlay" in a water catchment.

The council last year rejected plans to establish plantations at Swan Marsh because the trees would be in an area with a "land subject to inundation overlay". The Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal overturned the council's 2005 decision, ruling the council could reject a plantation if ploughing or ripping of land affected water flows, but not for the environmental effects of chemicals.

The council's legal advice was that the same ruling would apply to the Gellibrand proposal.

Gellibrand resident Neil Longmore said he did not believe VCAT's decision about bluegums in flood overlay areas applied to bluegum plantations in environmental significance overlay areas.

Valerie Warner told the council the plantation would be next to her property. Ms Warner said she was concerned chemical sprays from the plantation could drift to her house or to water supplies.

"We need more protection for our water catchment and for our health," she said.

Juli Farquhar of Glen Loch Apple Farm, downstream from the plantation, said she feared chemicals could seep into her water supplies and affect her produce. Ms Farquhar said the contamination would make her lose organic certification.

Cr Joe Di Cecco said the council could only make a decision within planning rules, which did not allow councils to oppose a development because of chemical use.

Cr Brian Cook said the council had a duty to ratepayers to protect the environment.

Cr Stuart Hart said he opposed the plantation because he had a moral responsibility to protect residents' health and wellbeing.

Mayor Warren Riches said it cost the council $70,000 to fight a losing battle at VCAT when it opposed bluegum plantations at Swan Marsh.

The plantation's fate fell to Cr Chris Smith, who said he went to the meeting planning to approve the plan. Cr Smith later spoke against the plantation, although he said he doubted the council could win a case at VCAT if it rejected the plantation. "We may have a difficult case to win but I believe we owe it to our community to oppose this," he said. Cr Smith changed his position again at the last minute, voting to approve the plantation.

Gellibrand fights plantation plans By David McKenzie

Gellibrand residents have taken a fight against a bluegum plantation to the State Government.

Fiona Nelson from the otway Conservation Council and the Gellibrand Clean Water Group said residents were concerned Midway's plans for a plantation could contaminate water supplies with chemicals.

She said the proposed plantation was in a river catchment which supplied drinking water. Ms Nelson said residents had written to Planning Minister Rob Hulls, Water Minister John Thwaites and Primary Industries Minister Bob Cameron asking them to stop the plantation.

She said the application was to make the Gellibrand River catchment a chemical control area, which would ban the use of chemicals in the zone. Colac Otway Shire Council approved the plantation this week despite residents' concerns.

Councillors argued that although they opposed the plantation, planning laws required them to approve it. Ms Nelson said she was "extremely disappointed" the council approved the plantation.

"I'm disappointed because it was so close," she said. Ms Nelson said people were concerned about plantation chemicals. "There's a growing number of communities getting together to discuss the plantation issue," she said. "That's because it's affecting so many communities."

The council's general manager of planning and environment, Kelly Grigsby, told councillors that the best way to deal with the spread of bluegum plantations was through strategic planning, rather than opposing applications and going to an appeals tribunal.

The council is reviewing its planning scheme, aiming to define areas in the shire which should be for food production rather than timber plantations. But the council is unable to enforce proposed restrictions until it produces a formal policy, which could be months away.

Ms Nelson said governments in other countries had banned chemicals which Australian plantation companies used, and scientists had linked the chemicals to cancer and the degradation of aquatic plant and animal species. "There's a heap of information out there that shows these chemicals aren't safe," she said.