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Massive timber backlog shows true logging scale

The Green Party today said the true scale of native logging on the West Coast could be seen by a huge build-up of rimu logs at the Ruatapu mill on the West Coast.

Green co-leader Rod Donald said the build-up of around 700 rimu logs - aged between 100 and 500 years old - in the Ruatapu mill yard suggested logging rates in the Orikaka Forest were increasing as the future of the logging hangs in the balance.

"With essentially only four days remaining until Cabinet decide the future of our rare native forests it is crucial that the public know the true scale of what is actually happening in the West Coast forests," he said.

"All of the reports the Greens have received over the last month suggest that activity from the logging helicopter has increased dramatically and that a number of skid sites in the forests are being used simultaneously to enable maximum log extraction."

Mr Donald said that when a Green Party list candidate Richard Davies toured the Ruatapu mill last year he was told by the mill manager that they liked to keep stockpiles of logs down to an absolute minimum.

Mr Donald said that with such a huge backlog being contrary to preferred mill operating procedures he was deeply concerned that Timberlands were "going for broke" while they were still able.

"The logging of our West Coast forests is not a small scale operation involving plucking the occasional tree out by helicopter as some people would suggest," he said. "It is a major operation involving cutting down thousands of ancient trees with considerable impact on the forests and the rare species that live there."

Mr Donald said with only a fraction of New Zealand's native lowland forest still remaining, the time had well and truly come for a complete end to native logging on the Crown estate.

"The Greens will step up our representations to the government this week, arguing vigorously that all contracts that allow native logging be terminated promptly," he said.

"The $120 million package offered to the West Coast is a most generous offer that provides massive opportunity for the West Coast in exchange for the removal of native logging.

"The government was elected on a policy of ending native logging, they have a clear mandate and the Greens expect to see this policy implemented."

Ends Rod Donald MP: 04 470 6660, 025 507 183, Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133

Photos of the Ruatapu backlog, Orikaka Forest and a number of logging skid sites available on request.

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