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21 Sep 12 @ 03:09pm by Elaine Phelan and Kimberley Seedy

ORGANISERS of a free camping festival in Toolangi State Forest this weekend say they are expecting at least 200 people.

When the Leader visited the camp earlier today at least four dome tents had been erected behind a council-approved canvas shelter at the intersection of Monda Track and Myers Creek Rd.

Central Highlands Action Group member Ben Baker told the Leader said the group was against logging in Toolangi and the destruction of the Leadbeater’s possum habitat.

He was expecting 200 people minimum at the festival, which he said would be a peaceful protest.

“People should have the right to do what they wish when it comes to fighting for what is right … especially when no one is getting hurt,’’ Mr Baker said.

Kinglake Police Sgt Ken MacDonald said today they had spoken to about 30 CHAG members at the Toolangi camp site on Thursday night about 9pm.

Friends of Forestry committee member Graham Taylor said yesterday he couldn’t believe Yarra Ranges Council would issue a permit for a roadside shelter in the first place.

He said it was interesting to note the Monda Track site was openly promoted on the group’s web site as Camp CHAG.

“Now it’s the meeting point for this five-day protest, with protesters coming from all over Australia,’’ Mr Taylor said.

“It beggars belief that a permit was issued in the first place. If any community member went to the council and asked for a three month permit to put up a shelter on the side of the road, they would be instantly knocked back.

“There are far too many cars, on different nights, parked around the campsite for those people to all be sleeping in the little token sleeping tents at the back of the main structure.

“Why was the council permit issued and under what conditions?’’

According to the DSE web site: “recreational pursuits and club activities are generally permitted in state forest … however, special conditions may apply in some zones and permits are required for club and large scale events (generally greater than 25 people).