Tree vigil sent clear message

A 182-HOUR tree-top vigil in protest against Whitehaven Coal’s winter clearing of the Leard State Forest to make way for its Maules Creek coalmine has ended.

Sam Cooper climbed down from his post after learning of Whitehaven Coal’s decision to voluntarily suspend its controversial clearing until at least September.

The 23-year-old was the third person – after Sakyo Noda, 36, and Kate Warren, 23 – to participate in the vigil, which ran for almost eight days.

He said he was “ecstatic” to learn last week that Whitehaven Coal had given an undertaking in the NSW Land and Environment Court to cease the clearing.

The company’s decision came just hours before Justice Peter Biscoe was due to rule on an injunction lodged by the Maules Creek Community Council (MCCC). “When I saw the cleared areas of the mine, I realised I’d never properly experienced disgust,” Mr Cooper said.

“My time in the tree was beautiful, but tainted by the continual sound of crunching machines.

“I wish that shareholders in these companies actually knew what their money was going to.”

The MCCC maintains the company’s winter clearing, when hibernating animals are at their most vulnerable, is a breach of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

Whitehaven Coal is adamant it has all the required approvals and has vowed to defend the matter when it returns to court in September for a full hearing.

Environmental groups claim more than 220 people have been arrested for conducting protest activities in the Leard State Forest since January.

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