A GUMBAYNGGIRR embassy camp has been formed in response to active logging taking place within the Nambucca State Forest over sites that hold significant cultural value to the local Gumbaynggirr people.
"The NSW Forestry Corporation have been given the permission to log 140,000 hectares of coastal forests from Taree to Grafton which they refer to as 'intensive harvesting zones'. If we don't act now our deeply significant cultural heritage will be desecrated, our beautiful old growth trees will be logged, rare flora will become extinct and our koalas and endangered species will literally have nowhere else to go," Gumbaynggirr camp spokesperson Sandy Greenwood said.
A spokesperson from Forestry Corporation (FC) told the Guardian earlier that the plan was for a "light selective harvesting operation within three compartments of Nambucca State Forest".
Further, the spokesperson said Forestry had already altered its operations in reaction to the impact of the fires on forests, but needed to maintain timber supplies for the rebuilding phase of affected communities.
"Immediately following the fires, 70 per cent of Forestry Corporation's harvesting operations on the North Coast have been moved into hardwood plantations," the spokesperson said.
The camp, which is being led by the Gumbaynggirr community, is being supported by some residents and various environmental groups. There is wide concern that the forest is one of the few remaining endangered koala habitats of its kind in the area.
Some local residents are further questioning the plans to log the area after thousands of hectares of nearby forest was burnt in the 2019/20 bushfires. The concern is that more deforestation after the destruction of bushfires will push endangered wildlife towards extinction.
The embassy camp hopes to draw attention to the loss of native forests and important habitat for low-grade timber uses such as woodchip and paper.
"It would be a disaster and a disgrace to see some of our totemic animals like the Koala disappear for motives of greed," Micklo Jarrett said.
"The ancestral beings gave us our lore, our culture, and taught us how to live in harmony with the land. Everything was precious - we needed these places to survive. If they keep going like this we won't have forest left. This forest needs to be a sanctuary for our people and other animals."
They said the Gumabynggirr people are calling on the NSW Government to establish a new cultural heritage area that will safeguard cultural sites and endangered species, protect water catchments and boost local jobs in land management and tourism.
Sandy Greenwood: "I would like to see the Nambucca State Forest made into a national Cultural Heritage Park sustaining our ancient culture and natural habitats for future generations and creating culturally empowering and environmentally sustainable jobs."
"We want to protect this forest as a cultural heritage park, a national one, for us all to enjoy. The time to act is now - we will save our forests."
The camp is being regularly visited by community members who want to support the embassy. There is a general commitment to stay camped there as long as it takes for the forest to be protected.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been launched by the Gumbaynggirr traditional owners and custodians for the tent embassy.
The page had a target of $2000, and more than $6000 has now been raised.