Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her stint as Phillip Adams’ ‘Canberra Babylon’ contributor and her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and #Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston

I AM NEW to covering the Koala Wars, otherwise known as the campaign to end native forest logging in NSW State Forests, our public land, and it’s a shocking eye opener. 

People told me the NSW government owned Forestry Corporation (FC) were cowboys, but WTF???

My lesson in FC’s rule of law and good governance trashing began when Inspector Moodie from Taree police station announced to #SaveBulgaForest protesters on Monday that FC had just closed the entire Yarratt State Forest, near Wingham, until August 7, so it was now unlawful to cross its boundaries. Someone asked if that included public roads. “Yes,” he replied.

There was talk among campaigners that locals would be upset, as there were two public roads in the forest. I expected the forest closure to make local news and cause some consternation. Maybe bad for the campaign, I thought.

No local media reported the news. Live Traffic NSW did not advise motorists of the public road closures.

So I re-read the closure notice and looked again at the map.

Yarratt Forest closure notice – Forestry Corporation of NSW

There it was (FC’s emphasis):

To be clear, the closed area includes all roads and trails that physically occur within the legal boundary of Yarratt State Forest.”

Forestry Corporation of NSW

My housemate friend drove me to camp and somehow became a #SaveBulgaForest camp kitchen helper and action attendee. She’s never been involved in something like this before, and thought that as a resident she’d ask the local FC office for clarification. Could she have a picnic in the forest or drive through to visit someone?

He looked up the “Partial Closure” public advisory on the FC site. Yes, she could do both, just follow the logging operation signs. But what about the closure notice? He hadn’t been notified! He read it, and said he’d get back to her.

He called back to say the office was having a meeting to discuss the matter and he’d get back to her. He rang back to say he’d got clarification and would update the Public Advisory.

“The whole of the forest is closed (and)  all roads and trails within those boundaries are off limits.”

Forestry Corporation of NSW

What about the residents who live within the forest boundary? They “should have been contacted and would have permission to enter certain areas”.

She would have to “find alternative routes” to visit people.

Got it. 

So she rang the Mid North Coast Council. Had it been notified of the closure of two public roads? They looked up their road alerts. Nothing. They’d get back to her. 

She googled a while, and discovered that the Brimbin Nature Reserve could only be reached through the Yarratt State Forest. So FC had denied public access for six months! She phoned the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Had FC informed them as required? No! As a result there was no alert for travellers on its website. It would get back to her.

She rang FC again. How did one seek permission and from whom to enter Yarratt State Forest to drive through on a public road? Was there a form? He’d get back to her. 

Yesterday morning she rang the Council again to advise that FC had told her it had closed the forest’s public roads. The officer looked up the closure notice and confirmed FC had not given it an alert as required. After being put on hold, the officer said her manager had just spoken to FC’s “liaison officer” and was told that public roads were open! However, it was illegal to stop your vehicle in the forest. Huh? 

Meanwhile I called the NSW Environment and Heritage Department media office to ask if it was legal for FC to ban access to a Nature Reserve and would the Minister direct it to exempt travellers to the reserve. She’d get back to me.

A few hours later a different Wauchope FC officer rang my friend. He said “a team” was working on a new closure order to exempt through traffic on public roads but it would be illegal to pull over in the forest. 

At 9pm last night the Department emailed this quote from NSW National Parks and Wildlife:

“Brimbin Nature Reserve is open, and the access road to it is also open, and has not been closed.”

NSW National Parks and Wildlife

This morning, a new closure notice went up.  The FC did not say it had changed the order, or what the differences were. Its method was to keep the now false “Total Closure” Advisory and change the link in it to the new, contradictory closure notice. 

And the public roads are NOT OPEN, as FC told Council and NSW National Parks and Wildlife. 

To be clear, the Closed Area includes various roads and trails that physically occur within the legal boundary of Yarratt State Forest, which are closed to all but through vehicle traffic. Vehicles must not stop or linger along these roads or trails…” (FC emphasis) 

Forestry Corporation of NSW
Updated Yarratt Forest closure notice – Forestry Corporation of NSW

FC did not issue a press release informing residents of changes to their legal rights in the forest and penalties for breach when they closed the forest, or when they changed the law this morning. 

I have contacted the Environment Department media to ask whether it will issue an alert, warning travellers not to stop their vehicle in the forest on the way to Brimbin. 

This is crap. Public in the dark. System failure. Cowboy abuse of power without responsibility.

FC thinks it can get away with anything. And it could, until my friend made some calls. Is this a fascinating insight into how the game is played in the forever safe National Party seat of Myall Lakes?

On the evidence so far, I think FC issued a sham closure notice and made sure protesters knew they’d face arrest and fines if they entered the forest and that other residents didn’t. It wanted unfettered power to eject, arrest and fine people it didn’t like the look of, while not inconveniencing other locals who it didn’t inform. The local FC office didn’t get the con, read the notice, and took it seriously. When Council and NSW National Parks asked why they weren’t informed FC lied, then changed the order, although contrary to what it told them, the roads remain closed with an exception for through traffic that didn’t stop. Didn’t spread the news to locals again, naturally. 

No wonder FC bosses don’t give interviews and put out blather statements instead.  


NSW Forestry Corporation has issued yet another six month Total Forest Closure Notice for the Yarratt State Forest. Can’t tell you when – it just deletes the previous ones and no dates of issue – but what’s the bet it was after today’s #ForestWalkOn was publicised on Facebook. 

When its first notice was exposed as fake, FC did the one I wrote about below. It went from “the closed area includes all Yarratt State Forest” to an exemption for “through vehicle traffic”.

Very recently, I think, but who knows, it changed to closed “to all but authorised vehicles”. Nothing on how to get authorisation.

I got lost getting to the meeting place this morning and ended up braving rough-as-guts trails in the Yarratt. We passed several loggers and their utes, as did several other cars without ‘authorisation’ – not even an eye blink. The forest is not closed to all. Never has been. It’s a lie to tell protesters they’d better leave or be arrested for being in a closed forest, as police did at the Yarratt action last month, while locals, TrafficNSW, councils for public roads, and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service whose nature reserves would be off limits for six months are not told. After queries by the council and national parks about why they weren’t issued alerts about the first ‘Total Forest Closure’, Forestry Corp told them the Yarratt was not closed! That’s a blatant abuse of power – I did law a long time ago, but surely a body given legal power to close the public’s forests cannot just pretend to exercise it.

Why no police and arrests today? Three possibilities I can think of. Have Taree police worked out that FC is in bad faith and would not come? Has FC been told by the NSW Government to lie low before the election? Or maybe FC knows it’s ‘Forest Closure Notice’ is fake. Forestry Corp officers made no attempt to stop us going into the ‘Closed Forest’, despite having ample legal powers to do so. It was only when we neared a REAL road closure just in front of actual logging operations that it told us to go no further or be arrested for a serious offence and face personal danger.


No Fibs has published my Twitter thread on today’s #ForestWalkOn in the Yarratt State Forest, THREAD: Forestry Corp’s Total Forest Closure Notice is fake: no arrests at #ForestWalkOn.

Feature photo by Sallie Colechin