This week's arrest of high school students and grandmothers who locked-on to logging equipment in state forest near Coffs Harbour has overshadowed an attempt to educate the public about sustainable timber production.
The aim of the protest was to protect habitat in a proposed Great Koala National Park, which covers much of the remaining blackbutt timber country on public lands that is suitable for commercial timber production.
North East Forestry Hub manager Nick Davies has the job of promoting sustainable silviculture to the public and his team is currently surveying 2000 people on the North Coast and around Sydney to discover if there is any appetite for logging on public lands. Findings will be made public by the end of August.
"We admit forestry is losing the public relations war," he says. "But the public have to understand that the timber industry can't do a thing without compliance."
For a logging coup to proceed it must tick the box on 2000 conditions set out in the EPA's Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals, designed to meet ecologically sustainable production.
Mr Davies says an excellent national parks reserve system was set-up in the 1990s to maintain biodiversity. However, the push to lock up state land has increased to the point that just 12 per cent of forests - initially created to protect the timber industry - remain available for logging.
"Through this survey we are testing the waters of public opinion," said Mr Davies. "We suspect that the view put forward by protestors is not founded across the whole of our community."