No shortage of rimu - Labour
"The announcement affects only 10 percent of the indigenous production forests area," said Labour forestry spokesperson Pete Hodgson.
"People don't realise that nearly all indigenous production forestry in New Zealand is in private hands. Those who do know such as Otago MP Gavan Herlihy choose not to put the facts in the public arena because it does not suit their political ends."
Mr Hodgson was responding to a claim from Willetts Furniture Company that it would be stripped of nearly all its timber supplies under Labour's policy.
"We have no intention of letting a company like this run short of quality raw material. What many furniture manufacturers do not know is that a large number of private forestry owners are preparing their permits and plans so that they can enter the rimu market as unsustainable logging in Buller comes to an end."
Information from MAF showed the number of private foresters who had had their plans and permits approved rose from 73 in 1997 to 121 in 1988 to 192 so far this year with another 63 in the pipeline. The figures applied to all indigenous timbers, but rimu was the predominant product.
"Those figures do not represent a prospective shortage of rimu, or for that matter beech. They mean that high value uses such as furniture will be well supplied. However low value uses of rimu such as framing timber have all but disappeared these days and Labour's announcement will hasten that process. We are pleased about that," Mr Hodgson said.
Mr Hodgson also took the opportunity to defend the Labour Party's decision. He said that modelling by both Landcare and Timberlands West Coast showed that over time the character of the West Coast forests would change. The debate was about how much change and over what period of time. He said the forests were mostly of high or very high ecological value and that those that were not were being offered to the West Coast community, along with all of Timberlands' exotic forests, at no cost.
"This issue is about jobs. We can either allow logging of high ecological value forests to continue until the damage is proven, or we can stop now on the basis of predictive models. One way or another the future of economic development on the West Coast cannot depend on logging forests that are of National Park status.
"The number of jobs is measured in the dozens, not the hundreds and Labour wants to ensure that those jobs are well and truly replaced by way of an economic development package we hope to negotiate."