Remembering the battle at Terania Creek

DEFENDERS: Terania Creek locals and environmental activists, Nan and Hugh Nicholson at their home with views of the rain forest they fought so had to protect.
DEFENDERS: Terania Creek locals and environmental activists, Nan and Hugh Nicholson at their home with views of the rain forest they fought so had to protect. JAY CRONAN

IT WAS 30 years ago Terania Creek exploded on to television screens and stole headlines across Australia.

The protest was the first time citizens physically defended a rainforest by placing themselves in front of police and loggers. It spun the lives of those involved onto the path of environmental activism, like The Channon residents, Hugh and Nan Nicholson.

Hugh and Nan bought an abandoned dairy farm at the end of Terania Creek Road in 1974, drawn by the beauty of the forests that surrounded it.

But they didn't know the trees that surrounded their new home were due to be logged."It was looking at that forest on a daily basis out our window and would all be clear-felled and replanted with eucalypts (in Jiffy pots), which was a strong motivating force to save it," Hugh said.

The Nicholson's rallied their neighbours when they discovered the Forestry Commission's plans.

"We'd have meetings and discuss tactics but then we would also sit over a cup a tea and learn about each other," he said.

From the time they found out about the loggers plans in 1975 until the logging trucks arrived in the valley in 1979 they wrote letters, lobbied politicians and made submissions. But nothing worked.

With logging trucks due to arrive in the valley, the Nicholson's sent out a call to arms.

"It happened to coincide with the second weekend of the month which is the Channon market...we told people the bulldozers would be arriving the following week," Hugh said.

"Remarkably, people just came back to our place after the market instead of going home."

It was Thursday, August 16 when the first confrontation occurred when up to 100 protesters formed human barricades to block bulldozers and police making their way into the rainforest.

The protesters continued with their efforts for a month but despite them - the logging continued.

A splinter group of protesters, angered at the logger's tactics of cutting down as many trees as they could to take out of the rainforest later, decided to take things into their own hands. They spiked trees and made deep cuts into fallen logs - rendering them useless. This halted the logging and sparked the Wran government's decision to gazette the remaining rainforest in NSW as a National Park.

But Hugh and Nan feel the fight for the environment is no way near over.

"I guess by now we would have hoped things would have got easier, because at the time it was such a battle that we felt we should be able to rest and not do that again," Nan said."Even though we won that battle there are so many other battles...and in lots of ways they get worse."

Hugh reflected, "We still find it really hard to imagine that it is as everyone says the first time people actively protected rainforest."

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