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National welcomes West Coast indigenous logging

National welcomes new West Coast sustainable indigenous logging

Nick Smith National Environment Spokesperson

19 July 2001

National welcomes new West Coast sustainable indigenous logging

Coasters and Richards clearfell Clark policy with Government's own money

The resumption of sustainable logging of indigenous forests on the West Coast this week exposes the hypocrisy of the Government's expensive Timberlands policy, National's Environment spokesperson Nick Smith said today.

"The Government wasted $120 million of public money in stopping sustainable management of Timberlands indigenous forests.

"Now, wily West Coasters have used the money to start up a new indigenous forest company involving thousands of hectares of privately-owned West Coast forests.

"You have to hand it to the Coasters and Kit Richards. They have scored a tremendous coup and have made a laughing stock of the Government.

"The 'forever Timber Group' is a joint venture involving three former employees of Timberlands West Coast, Briden Ltd, a Hokitika-based sawmilling company, and Lumber Specialties Ltd, a Christchurch-based timber wholesaling company.

"Capital for the company has been allocated by the Westland Working Group from the $120 million paid in compensation to stop logging on the West Coast. This week, the company started up indigenous logging using helicopters in the Maruia Valley.

"The company has done its homework and is complying with the law. It has obtained Resource Management Act Certificates of Compliance for 75 forestry blocks in the Maruia, Tutaki and Matakitaki areas. It has also received Ministry of Forestry approval for its sustainable forest management plans.

"New Zealanders should welcome this venture. It is about maintaining forests, communities and jobs. National would object strongly if the forests were being trashed or native birdlife threatened, but this standard of forestry management is world class and is supported by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the World Wildlife Fund and the New Zealand Ecologic Foundation.

"It is time for the indigenous forest debate to mature beyond 'sloganeering' and instead focus on sustainability.

"West Coasters must be laughing their heads off. Helen Clark wasted $120 million on stopping 8000 cubic metres of sustainable forestry, yet spawned this scheme which will harvest 7000 cubic metres. The reduction equates to $120,000 per cubic metre in reduced timber harvest, putting the price of timber in almost the same bracket as gold.

"The environmental tragedy of this is that the $120 million could have been spent in many other ways, like stopping the destructive unsustainable clearfelling of forests on Maori land in Southland.

"This time, the Government has to back off. New Zealanders will not tolerate a vindictive Government trying to stop the West Coast from creating jobs and rebuilding its future," Dr Smith said.

Ends

QUESTION AND ANSWERS ABOUT FOREVER TIMBER

By Nick Smith National's Environment Spokesperson

1. Who is the Forever Timber Group?

It is a three-way joint venture company between Forever Ltd (a forest management company formed by three former Timberlands employees Kit Richards, R Dalley and J Drofield), Briden Ltd (a West Coast sawmilling company) and Lumber Specialties (a Christchurch based timber merchant specialising in high value furniture timber - Allan Sayer).

2. How did the Forever Timber Group get Government funding?

The Government allocation $120 million in compensation last year for breaking the West Coast Accord signed by Labour in 1986 and stopping Timberlands sustainable indigenous logging operation. The funds were divided with $7 million to each of the four Councils and $92 million to the West Coast Development Trust. Official Information Act requests have revealed the largest grant given to date is $400,000 in June 2001 to the Forever Timber Group for start-up capital by the Westland District Council.

3. How has the Forever Timber Group got access to indigenous forests on the West Coast?

Forever Timber has registered access to virgin indigenous forests on private land immediately adjacent to the Timberlands West Coast Forests in Maruia, Tutaki and Matakitaki Valleys. Resource consents have been granted for 75 blocks by the Tasman District Council and Certificates of Compliance issued (Nick Smith obtained under the OIA and are available on request). No public access is required in Tasman as sustainable forestry is a complying activity.

Approved Sustainable Management Plans under the Forests Act (1991) have been granted by the Government's own Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

4. What volumes of timber are involved in the venture?

The company initially plans to harvest 7000 cubic meters of timber per year. This compares to 8000 cubic metres per year by West Coast Timberlands this last year. The company has plans to expand the business to 12,000 cubic meters per year.

The 7,000 cubic meters of timber will be in red, silver and mountain beech and equates to about 3,000 trees per year. There are over 100 million beech trees on the West Coast. The annual harvest equates to one tree per 33,000 trees or one tree each year taken from each 250 hectares.

ENDS

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