Police said five people were arrested after the protest.
“Two women and a man climbed the structure and a banner was unfurled on the building’s north-western sail,” police said in a statement, adding that the women, aged 22 and 30, and 37-year-old man were charged with trespass.
Two other women were also arrested and after allegedly refusing directions to leave the area by security officers, police said.
The protesters climbed onto the Opera House in front of hundreds of onlookers, releasing a 10 by 12 metre (33 by 40 foot) banner that read: ‘No Harvey Norman. No. Stop Selling Aussie Forest Destruction” as they abseiled down the side.
Environmental activists from the group The Last Stand said the protest was aimed at drawing attention to retailing giant Harvey Norman — a popular chain store that sells furniture and electrical goods.
“We are focusing on Harvey Norman and the role they play in helping to drive forest destruction here and overseas by selling products in their stores that are sourced from native forests,” group spokeswoman Ula Majewski said.
Harvey Norman could not be reached Saturday. It has reportedly previously said it has been unfairly targeted and did its best to use timber from sustainable sources.
Majewski said while Harvey Norman also sold products made from sustainable timber plantations and recycled wood, they were a big enough player in the market to do more.
“We just think that as the retail giant that they are, they can play a really important role in transforming the market,” she told AFP from the Opera House forecourt.
“And we are just asking them to show some real environmental leadership.”
The furniture industry described the protest as misguided, saying Australia’s native forests were managed to global best practice standards.
Chief executive of Furniture Australia Rohan Wright said furniture makers were reliant on high-end native timber because plantation timbers were not available in commercial quantities in Australia.
He said Harvey Norman insisted that their Australian-made timber products used wood which was certified as sustainable.
“These standards guarantee no deforestation, and sustainable management,” Wright said.
“Harvey Norman should be congratulated for standing up for the Australian furnishing industry that currently provides more than 100,000 Australian jobs.”