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Questions and Answers on Forests Amendment Bill

Questions and Answers on Forests Amendment Bill

1 What are SILNA forests, where are they and what area do they cover?

SILNA forests are on areas of land granted to landless Maori in 1906 under the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906. The main blocks of SILNA land are located in Southland, Otago and Stewart Island. There are also smaller blocks on the West Coast and Marlborough. As a result of the 1906 allocation, 57,338 hectares of SILNA land was granted to 4064 individuals of Maori descent. SILNA lands now include virgin indigenous forest, cut-over forest and land that has been cleared for agriculture and plantation forests. Approximately 37,000 hectares of these lands are still covered in indigenous forest.

2 What are the sustainability requirements of the Forests Act?

Where an indigenous forest is being managed for timber production, the forest must be sustainably managed in a way that protects all its natural values (birds, insects, freshwater fish & plant communities and water and soil qualities) and amenity values (landscape and recreational opportunities) and to ensure that timber is removed using very low impact techniques and at a rate that is no more than the natural growth rate of the forests. The Act requires forest managers to prepare a management plan or permit for independent review and audit by MAF and DOC and that the forest is managed in accordance with the plan or permit.

3 What was the purpose of the export controls in indigenous wood products, when were they first introduced and what effect did they have?

There have been export controls on indigenous timber in one form or another for several decades. Prior to 1990, export controls under the Customs legislation were established to ensure there was enough indigenous wood available for local processing and to limit the sale of timber in certain markets. In 1990, export controls were extended to ban the export of any unsustainably-produced indigenous sawn timber, logs and woodchips. This was to discourage the clearfelling of New Zealand's unique indigenous forests. With the passing of the 1993 Forests Amendment Act, export controls were limited to sawn timber of sustainably-produced beech and rimu. SILNA forests and West Coast forests (managed by Timberlands) were exempted from the Forests Act controls, but exports continued to be regulated for these forests under the Customs Export Prohibition Order. The Government had continued to limit the export of indigenous timber and phase out the export of woodchips from exempted lands through Customs regulations under the Customs and Excise Act 1996.

4 How has the decision of the High Court in the Johnston Sawmilling case affected the policy?

On 6 June 1999, the High Court found that the use of Customs regulations to limit the export of indigenous timber and woodchips from SILNA land was unlawful. This has meant that, for the first time for several decades, there are no current controls on the export of any indigenous timber product produced from SILNA lands. In his judgement Justice Wild said "few environmentally conscious New Zealanders would not support the Government's laudable efforts to preserve our remaining indigenous forest including those in private ownership." The problem was not the Government's aims but the means by which Government sought to achieve those aims.

5 How are the new export controls different from those used under the Customs Act?

The new export controls will allow the export of any indigenous timber product including logs, woodchips and sawn timber of any indigenous species provided it has been produced from a sustainably-managed forest. Previously, the Government had not allowed the export of any indigenous logs and had severely limited, in a move to phase out by the end of this year, the export of all woodchips from SILNA lands.

6. Why is the Government prepared to allow sustainability managed timber, logs and chip to be exported?

Provided landowners can show that they are managing there forests sustainably under the Forests Act, there is no need to limit the markets available for sale of forest products. Limiting the markets limits the potential financial return to managers and the income available for sustainable management of their forests.

7. How does the Bill impact on the West Coast Accord?

The Bill implements the policy change announced last year of bringing to an end six years early the ?Buller overcut? of rimu under the West Coast Accord. This will have major conservation benefits for the Buller forests. The Bill also brings all the other Crown West Coast indigenous forests managed by Timberlands West Coast under the sustainable management, milling and export controls of the Forests Act.

8. Will the Bill mean an end to the West Coast indigenous timber industry?

No. It will put the West Coast industry on a fully-sustainable footing. Timberlands will develop its beech forest management proposals under the sustainable forest management principles of the Forests Act. Rimu management in South Westland will also be managed on the same basis.

9. Will the Bill mean that valuable forests and wildlife habitat on the West Coast will be destroyed?

No. 85% of the West Coast is fully protected as public conservation lands. Furthermore, the Timberlands West Coast forests will be sensitively managed both to ensure protection of their unique values and to allow a strictly limited timber production.

10. Will there be any compensation for Timberlands West Coast from the new sustainability requirements?

Compensation for the effect of any of the new provisions is expressly ruled out by the Bill.

11. What is the voluntary moratorium for SILNA and how will it work?

The voluntary moratorium on unsustainable harvesting will provide an interim breathing space of at least one year and help the negotiating climate between the SILNA landowners and the Government.

The moratorium will be offered to SILNA landowners on the basis that they agree to cease unsustainable forestry activity for an initial period of one year. Landowners that join the moratorium process will receive a ?Goodwill? payment. For the period of the moratorium, Crown negotiators will work with those landowners to reach voluntarily negotiated settlements with the participating SILNA owners.

12. Will there be any compensation for SILNA forest owners who have signed lawful contracts to clearfell and export the timber products?

The Government will establish an adjustment assistance scheme to consider claims for financial losses arising from written contracts existing at the time of the Bill?s introduction, and affected by the new export controls.

Under the proposed adjustment assistance scheme, SILNA forest owners would be eligible for some recognition of loss where they have written contracts signed before 13 July 1999 (today) and these contracts are affected by the new export controls.

13. How will SILNA forests come under the sustainable requirements of the Forests Act?

The Forests Amendment Bill makes provision for SILNA landowners to phase out, by voluntary means, the remaining unsustainable commercial milling of their forests. Owners can agree to opt into the Forests Act sustainable management requirements by an Order in Council.

Entering the Forests Act sustainable management provisions will be one of the options discussed with landowners during the moratorium.

14. What consultation will there be with SILNA owners on this proposed approach and is this the Government?s final decision on the matter?

Consultation with the landowners is very important. The new approach has arisen as a consequence of informal discussions with owners to date. We will be putting the new proposals to landowners at a Hui in Christchurch at the end of the month. The package is not set in concrete and changes may be made following this discussion.

15. Is there any prospect of SILNA forest becoming fully protected for conservation purposes?

Full protection for conservation purposes will be one of the options discussed with landowners during the moratorium but can only occur if owners agree to financial compensation.

16. How will these proposals affect the Treaty of Waitangi Claim 158?

In the course of negotiations over options for SILNA land, the Government will be seeking to settle the WAI 158 claim.

17. Will any further legislation be required to ensure the sustainable management of New Zealand?s indigenous forests?

No.

18. Will the public have the ability to influence the content of the Bill?

Yes. After being introduced into Parliament and receiving its first and second readings, it will be referred to a Select Committee for detailed scrutiny. The Select Committee will call for and hear public submissions, before reporting back to the House of Representatives with suggested changes.

ENDS

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