Otway Ranges Environment Network



Print This Page

Overview OREN/Otway forest campaign (1995-2008)

What the OREN / Otways campaign has achieved

The Otway Ranges Environment Network(OREN) has conducted a successful decade-long active campaign to stop clearfell logging and woodchipping of the magnificent biodiverse Otway native forests for all time.  OREN’s work followed the excellent work of other conservation groups who fought to protect the Otway forests in the 1980's and earlier.

OREN was engaged in a community campaign that involved promotion of non-timber forest values such as nature conservation, sustainable forest based tourism and domestic water supply. These values were being compromised by relentless clearfell logging for woodchips. To educate the community, OREN produced detailed reports, operated this web site, produced calendars (2001 - 2004 & 2006), made stickers, gave public talks, publish articles and letters for newspapers, drew the media's attention to issues, and gave tours of the Otway forests. And more.

The OREN/Otway campaign was strongly based on the politics of non violent direct action (see pdf).


Woodchips make up about 90% of the Otway native forest that is clearfell logged (See graph), and generate over 60% of the forestry bureaucracy revenue. Hence OREN's key foe's were the woodchip industry (first Kimberly Clark and then Midway) along with the forestry bureaucracy. It was forestry bureaucrats who were actually responsible for inventing clearfell logging and then a market for native forest woodchips back in 1981. The loggers themselves were more often than not, the meat in the sandwich as they were the ones asked to clearfell log native forest that was controversial. Unfortunately the loggers forest union lacked any compromise skills, preferring to playing political games that helped the woodchip bosses rather than work with the broad community on issues and realistic solutions.

Despite this, OREN's lobbying and community campaigning influenced the Victorian State Government decision to announce new Otways policies in the 2002 State election. The State Government then subsequently passed legislation in 2005 that created a new Great Otway National Park and prohibits all clearfell logging for woodchips on public land by 2008.

OREN main achievements timeline.

  • February 1997
    Wilddog Ridge forest protests stop clearfell logging along the Wild Dog Ridge near Apollo Bay. Eleven local residents are arrested by forestry bureaucrats. However OREN, with help from lawyers, prove in court the logging was unlawful and charges against all those arrested were dropped. Wilddog Ridge now a National Park. Read full story.

  • December 1998
    Kimberly Clark the manufacture of Kleenex tissues, stops sourcing woodchips from the Otways after a two year campaign. Read 'refuse to use Kleenex tissues campaign'.

  • 1999 - April 2000
    Riley's Ridge tree village camp stops logging in late 1999. Camp is continuously occupied for six months by conservationists who prevent forestry bureaucracy sending in the loggers again. Riley's Ridge now a National park. Also at this time forest protests at the Cumberland River and at Middle Spur in the Geelong catchment succeeded in halting logging.

  • March 2001
    Sabine Falls logging never commences after mass community protest at a picnic on site. Arrogant forestry bureaucrats taught a lesson after removal of a popular picnic spot so logging could commence. Read full story.
  • April 2001
    Ciancio Creek rainforest forest protest showdown with forestry bureaucrats stops clearfell logging with a dozen or more conservationists and local residents arrested. OREN again with help from lawyers, subsequently proves logging was unlawful and charges were dropped. Ciancio creek rainforest now a National Park. Read full story.

  • February 2002
    Halls Ridge logging was stopped with no protest arrests after OREN negotiated with the State government to avoid logging contentious areas in the Otways for the remainder of the season.

  • 6 November 2002
    Within days of calling the Victorian 2002 State election, the premier Steve Bracks went to Triplet Falls in the Otways to make significant policy announcements that has changed the way the Otways are managed forever.

  • 30 November 2002
    ALP Bracks State Government re-elected with mandate from the Victorian people to end Otways logging and create new expanded Otway National Park. (Read 2002 ALP election policies). Liberals are electorally punished for supporting continued Otway logging under the RFA.

  • December 2002
    All native forest logging informally suspended in the Geelong domestic water supply catchments. See water campaign.

  • October 2004
    The Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks acknowledged in State Parliament that the West Regional Forest Agreement (or West RFA) was cancelled when the Otway policies were announced. See OREN destroyed an RFA.

  • September 2005
    Legislation to create Great Otway National Park and ban logging after 2008 is passed through Victorian State Parliament. This legislation is supported by the Victorian Liberal Party. Read more.

  • March 2006
    Victorian native forest logging industry acknowledges that the Otways/OREN campaign was a "watershed" that undermined the RFA resource security agenda for the entire Victorian native forest woodchip industry. See OREN destroyed an RFA.

See list of organisations that worked with OREN.

See list and maps of Otway catchments were clearfell logging has been suspended.

See ALP Otway policy implementation.


Overview of OREN / Otway camapigns

OREN created a community campaign

For the 10 years that OREN has been active, OREN conducted an integrated community campaign. That is, OREN sought to engage many diverse community groups, organisations and individuals with Otway forest issues that were of direct relevance to the broad community.  The aim was to make the arguments against Otway native forest logging easily available to the public and give the average person who wanted to help save the Otway forests something practical and realistic to do within their means.

Much of the media and public outreach that was generated, resulted from non-violent direct action(see 2 page pdf) by conservationists and Otway local residents. This included protests in the Otways at areas being or proposed to be clearfell logged. Direct action often involved the protesters putting their bodies on the line. One strategy was to live up in the trees on small ‘tree sit’ platforms for weeks or months at a time.

This passionate on-ground protest action got violent on a few occasions with occasional frustrated loggers physically attacking the protesters.

Parallel to these protests was a strategic public education and awareness campaign that sought to get the broad community engaged in the campaign to protect the Otway forests.

This broader campaign can be roughly broken up into a few critical stages.

1996-1998 Kleenex Campaign

OREN conducted the  “refuse to use Kleenex” or “don't wipe your bum on the Otways” campaign.  Kimberly Clark, an American multinational company who owns the Kleenex brand name, had a license to source 44,000 tonnes of Otway woodchips per year. These woodchips were used to make Kleenex facial tissues and toilet paper. The OREN consumer awareness campaign involved the promotion of tissue paper products made from 100% post consumer waste paper products rather than using the Kleenex native forest fibre products. Kimberly Clark got the message from their customers and quit the Otways after a two year campaign by OREN.

Find our more about the "refuse to use Kleenex tissues" camapign.

1999-2000 Water not Woodchips

The “Water not Woodchips” campaign occurred in conjunction with the West RFA process. At issue was the fact that about half of the Otway State Forest is the domestic water supply for over 250,000 people in South West Victoria. Including the major regional cities of Geelong and Warrnambool. Scientific research had demonstrated that clearfell logging was reducing both the water yield and quality from the Otway water supply catchments. During this time the region was experiencing a drought and the public was subject to water restrictions.  Clearfell logging in the Otways became a personal issue for those who depended on the Otways for their drinking water.  

OREN  in conjunction with the Geelong Community Forum (GCF) conducted thorough research and demonstrated that logging was economically woodchip driven and that the economic value of water lost though logging was far greater that the value of the woodchips taken out. OREN made presentations to local governments throughout South West Victoria. The Greater Geelong City Council, Surf Coast Shire and Warrnambool City Council all came out opposed to logging within their Otway water catchment areas and expressed these views as part of the West RFA process.

Find out more detail about the campaign that stopped logging in the Otways water supply catchments.

2001-2002 political campaign

The final part of the campaign from 2001 - 2002 was a political campaign where the Bracks government changed it’s policy on the West RFA. It is important to note that the politics of non violent direct action (see two page pdf) also applied to this element of the campaign.

Both the Victorian government and members of OREN were engage directly in dialog about the future of the Otways. OREN representatives spent many hours as a part of an Otway Reference Group that met with ministerial advisers and forestry bureaucracy, to discuss contentious coupes and try to find a compromise  between what needed to be logged each summer and what should be preserved. The compromise was very difficult for both sides.

However over time OREN developed a critical relationship with the elected government based on integrity and trust. When compromises were reached, OREN always stuck to what was agreed despite some important forest areas being logged as a result of compromise.

This high level of integrity resulted in the government coming to the understanding that OREN was all about achieving positive practical outcomes rather than attempting a fundamentalist “all or nothing” political campaign.

In the end the Victorian Government’s Otway announcements made during the November 2002 state election came as a surprise to many but were not so much of a surprise to those in OREN who had worked with the broad community and Victorian government to achieve this fantastic outcome for the Otway forests.

Logging interests nearly won.

The threat to the Otway forests from clearfell logging came to a head in March 2000 when the Bracks and Howard governments signed the West Regional Forest Agreement (West RFA). This agreement was an attempt by the woodchip industry to ensure they would get acccess to woodchip logs from the Otways, through clearfell logging the forets until the year 2020.

The West RFA was a money-making dream come true for the woodchippers, and a nightmare for conservationists and the community. Under this agreement at least 3-4 sq kilometres of Otway forest would be clearfell logged and woodchipped annually for at least 20 years.

The logging interests almost succeeded.

Great Otway National Park

However history took another path. The Bracks’ government never put into place the legislation required to lock the West RFA into a legally binding agreement.

Instead the wishes of the community came first. Conservationists’ dreams became legal reality in September 2005 when legislation to establish the 102,000 ha Great Otway National Park and 40,000 ha Otways Forest Park was passed though the Victorian Parliament. The changes to legislation resulting from the National Parks (Otways and Other amendments) Bill will only allow native forest logging within the Otways Forest Park until 2008 when the last sawlog and woodchip licenses are due to expire.

West Regional Forest Agreement cancelled

When the Bracks’ government was re-elected in by the Victorian public in the 2002 elecitons, it was given a huge mandate to abandon the West Regional Forest Agreement(West RFA) signed only two years earlier.

No RFA agreement anywhere in Australia has ever been so totally and absolutely dumped before.

Find out how the native forest logging industry reacted to the cancelled West RFA.




See also

Archives - The old OREN website with archived information, including older campaign information.

Case against logging - A summary of the arguments against logging in the Otways native forest.


Don't know the meaning of a word? Check the glossary.