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Native Forest Sale Breach of Forest Accord

2 December, 1999

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Native Forest Sale Breach of Forest Accord

Contact: Kevin Smith (04) 385-7374 work or (04) 934-2473 home

The sale of 11,000 hectares of native forest by Carter Holt Harvey has been harshly criticised by conservationists.

Known as the Pohokura block, the forest lies to the east of Taupo and adjoins the Whirinaki Conservation Park. It has been sold this week by Carter Holt Harvey to a private buyer. The block is considered to be one of the most ecologically valuable areas of forest in private ownership in the North Island.

The Forest and Bird Protection Society has criticised Carter Holt Harvey for selling the block without placing legal covenants on the title, protecting the area's outstanding natural values.

Forest and Bird's conservation director, Kevin Smith, said he was bitterly disappointed with the actions of Carters as the company had previously assured Forest and Bird the block would be given legal protection.

"It has become clear to us that Carters is a company that cannot be trusted and pays only lip service to its environmental objectives."

Mr Smith said Carters had withdrawn Pohokura from sale in 1994 and agreed to work with Forest and Bird to secure its protection.

"They commissioned a brace of ecological studies that identified its outstanding conversation values, including the presence of a number of threatened species. Kiwi, blue duck, kaka, rare lizards and native plants were found there. The company advised us they would be retaining ownership of the area and developing a programme to actively manage it for conservation, in consultation with Forest and Bird and DoC."

"Unfortunately the American managers who now run Carter Holt Harvey Forests have a hardline attitude on environmental issues. Unlike their kiwi predecessors, they do not wish to work co-operatively with the New Zealand conservation movement."

Mr Smith said that under the New Zealand Forest Accord, Carters had made a commitment to the protection and conservation of New Zealand's native forests.

"Carters' failure to give Pohokura legal protection puts them in breach of their Accord undertakings."

Forest and Bird had made a $500,000 bid for the Pohokura forest, through the Nature Heritage Fund.

"Despite making a massive multi-million dollar profit this year, they rejected our bid which would have secured Pohokura for public ownership as an addition to the Whirinaki Conservation Park or to the Urewera National Park. This opportunity has now gone."

Mr Smith said nearly all New Zealand's major forestry companies were in overseas ownership.

"The foreign managers they are appointing to run the companies here have little interest in the protection of the New Zealand environment."

...... ends


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