Australian eco-protest camp destroyed in arson attack

Tasmania’s longest running forest blockade has been destroyed in a suspected arson attack. Camp Florentine’s kitchen, information hut, and communal areas were all raised to the ground in the latest assault

The camp is a three hour drive from the Tasmanian capital Hobart, sitting in the Upper Florentine valley. The Florentine valley is surrounded by World Heritage areas, yet the Upper Florentine and nearby Styx valley remain unprotected from the logging industry. 

The Styx valley has the tallest hardwood trees on the planet; with some over 400 years old, and a fifteen foot wide base. The Upper Florentine is home to eucalyptus, myrtle, sassafras trees, and the endangered Tasmanian devil. Tasmanian devil numbers are rapidly depleting with a cancer-like disease and loss of habitat. 

Timber from the valley was used in the construction of a London 2012 Olympic training centre. Tasmanian veneer processor, Ta-Ann, provided timber for this training centre, which was home to Team USA during the Games, and hosted a meeting with US First Lady, Michelle Obama. 

Pressure from Camp Florentine’s grassroots organisation ‘Still Wild Still Threatened’ led UK company International Plywood to suspend its contract with Ta-Ann. Following a direct action campaign by various environmental groups, Gloucester based International Plywood, suppliers for the 2012 Olympic Park, cessed trading with Ta-Ann.

Camp Florentine spokesperson Miranda Gibson, currently tree-sitting nearly 200 foot above the valley floor said, ‘This violent attack on the camp is an assault on the forest campaign. The camp is a peaceful protest movement and this incident is an act of intimidation towards protesters and the community involved in the camp’.

Gibson, Australia’s longest-running tree-sitting activist said ‘the Florentine camp has been in place for the past five years as a frontline defence to protect the Upper Florentine. There have been violent attacks on the camp in the past’.

Huon Valley Environment Centre Founder, Jenny Weber added, ‘It's very serious because it's an arson attack; it's a pattern that we've seen before where arson has been used against the protesters camp at the Florentine Valley’.

Four years ago (2008) arsonists’ fire-bombed two cars and the information point. The violence followed days of attacks, blamed on pro-logging campaigners. 

Former Leader of Australian Green’s, Senator Bob Brown said at the time, ‘this pro-logger vigilante attack held the people camped nearby in terror. Like the gelignite bombing of two cars in the East Picton forest in 1991, and the loggers' violent attack on protestors at Farmhouse Creek in 1986, no one has been arrested or charged’.

Tasmanian Detective Constable Craig Fry thinks the latest attack was misguided revenge for earlier vandalism on logging firm Les Walkden Enterprises. Fry said the incidents ‘do not appear to be linked to any kind of protest activity’, when arsonists caused $700,000(Aus) worth of damage to mechanical logging equipment.

Still Wild Still Threatened, will continue to confront the Australian logging industry. Activists have begun rebuilding Camp Florentine, with a small communal area. They hope to re-establish the camps information booth, kitchen, communal sleeping area, storage space and rear kitchen. 

Tasmanian police have yet to make any arrests, either for the arson attack, or for the theft of the camp’s vehicle which was taken during the attack. 


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