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Law change needed to plug logging legal loophole

6 December 2004

Urgent law change needed to plug logging legal loophole

The Green Party is today pushing for the Government to pass special legislation before Christmas to close the disastrous legal loophole that is allowing rimu logging on DOC land in the Whanganui River Valley.

Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is also calling on DOC to carry out an urgent stocktake to establish which other areas of high-value conservation forest around the country are still subject to such logging contracts.

"The Whanganui clear felling of ancient rimu has fallen through a crack between two laws and Parliament may be the only remedy.

"The Greens campaigned in 1999 to stop the logging of the West Coast beech forests and the Okarito and Saltwater forests in south Westland. One of the first acts of the incoming Labour Government, supported by the Greens, was to halt that logging, with some contracts allowed a phase-out period.

"New Zealanders have believed ever since that all logging on lands owned by the public has ended; no wonder people are today outraged at what is happening in the Whanganui. We don't expect logging of ancient forests to be happening in the 21st century.

"Somehow the Whanganui forest escaped from the policy intent and the public needs to be reassured that there are no other forests in this category, and if there are, they need to be brought within the law."

The principle behind the present law is that there shall be no native logging on public land at all and that such cutting on private land must be under a sustainable management plan that ensures that only timber equivalent in volume to the annual growth rate of the forest is taken. The 1993 amendment to the Forests Act stopped all clear felling of native forest on private land and required sustainable management. The only exception was land held under the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906 (SILNA) and these lands were finally dealt with earlier this year.

"While some compensation might have previously been due to the very inappropriately named 'Wildlife Properties', they are not owed anything now if they are found to have breached the council's rules limiting clear felling to half a hectare a year. In any case, compensation for the full value of the timber would be outrageously unfair, given that no compensation was given to private owners whose logging was earlier restricted or to Timberlands whose logging rights were cancelled in 1999.

"This is a situation where protection of these ancient forests and their wildlife for their own sake and for our children's children must be the primary goal," said Ms Fitzsimons.

ENDS

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