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East Coast forestry project to be reviewed

East Coast forestry project to be reviewed

The Government is to review the implementation and effectiveness of recent changes to the East Coast Forestry Project, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton released a discussion document that sets out information about the project, which began in 1992 to promote large-scale commercial forestry and other sustainable land use afforestation in the Gisborne-East Coast region of the North Island. The review will focus on changes to the scheme since 2000.

The huge regional scale soil erosion problem in the erodible soils of the East Coast is a legacy of decades of poor sustainable land management practices, coupled with the effects of intense storms such as the 1988 Cyclone Bola. Tree planting with a commercial forestry incentive, through the project, was seen as a means of encouraging afforestation of the worst of the erodible soils. It was also seen as the best way to restore, over the long term, an integrated mix of the best sustainable productive land uses in the region; farming, forestry and horticulture with some assurance that the worst wide-scale erosion could be stemmed.

As a result of the 2000 review, there were changes in the project objectives to ensure a focus on afforesting the worst of the at-risk soils in the East Coast.

The methods of afforestation were also expanded with allowance for a mix of commercial and other introduced tree species and for natural forest regeneration, in situations where this type of conservation forestry can provide effective cover.

There is also provision for planting around and within steep active gullies within farmland areas.

About 30,000 hectares of planting have been completed under the project.

There has also been a solid program of scientific research, based in the region, related to soil erosion processes in the region that has run parallel to the project and back to earlier years, Mr Sutton said. Results of this work will continue to help refine the methods used in the project.

Public input is a key part of the current review and the discussion document also sets out the process for making submissions. This is being posted to stakeholders, and will also be shortly available on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's website; www.maf.govt.nz. Submissions should be made before 20 July 2005.

MAF will also hold some consultation meetings with the public and interested stakeholders. Following the submission process two outside reviewers will consider both the public input and data from the project to complete a report which will then be relayed back to the Government.

Mr Sutton said there was much to learn from the project and still much to complete under the project.

"The Government is keen that the methods for countering steep country erosion are known and promoted.

"We also see wider opportunities for applying similar methods in other parts of the country. I believe the public input and expert review will help steer this in the right direction."

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