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Govt Must Not Lose Sight Of ‘Big Picture’

Govt Must Not Lose Sight Of ‘Big Picture’, Says Ecologic

A Government halt to sustainable rimu logging on the West Coast will encourage the unsustainable logging of privately-owned forests elsewhere in the country, the Ecologic Foundation warned today.

“New Zealand’s demand for quality native timbers is not going to go away,” said executive director of Ecologic, Guy Salmon. “If the Government cuts off the Timberlands supply, it will force the price for native timber through the roof.”

This will encourage the unsustainable logging of privately-owned native forests elsewhere in the country, Mr Salmon said.

“This could include large tracts of forest on Maori-owned land - many of which are already being clear-felled or heavily logged in parts of Southland and Otago - and the many small privately-owned holdings throughout the country.”

Ecologic is basing its prediction on a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry briefing paper, which was presented to Forestry Minister, Pete Hodgson, in February, and which has been obtained under the Official Information Act.

“The briefing confirms that there is a strong demand for native timbers by consumers, but that there are few alternative sustainable sources available to replace the rimu being produced under the Timberlands West Coast contracts.”

Mr Salmon said the Government should not focus solely on the validity or otherwise of the Timberlands rimu logging contracts, but should keep its eyes on the ‘big picture’.

“If the Government cancels the remaining Timberlands contracts, it will be presiding over a native forestry industry moving from a sustainable to an unsustainable footing.”

“That is not the sort of environmental legacy the Labour/Alliance Government will want to leave the country.”

The Ecologic Foundation is recommending that the Government should allow the existing sustainable rimu logging to continue to ensure that market demand for specialty native timbers is met. Instead, the Government should turn its attention to halting the unsustainable logging of native forests that continues on private land.

For more information, please contact Guy Salmon at 025-2013033.

KEY POINTS from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry briefing :

o In 1998, 71% of New Zealand’s rimu production was coming from publicly-owned land managed by Timberlands. This included the Buller ‘overcut’, which is due to end on 31 December 2000, and the sustainable production in South Westland, which is now under review by the Government.

o If the sustainable rimu production ends, MAF predicts there will be ‘a major shortfall in supply of rimu over current demand for furniture production”.

o The 1998 rimu production figures also showed that 29% of rimu came from sources other than Timberlands. 15% was being sourced from Maori land in Southland and Otago and the other 14% was coming from private land elsewhere in the country. (Separate information provided by MAF shows that most native timber production on Maori land in Otago and Southland is from clear-felling, while about half of the other privately-owned volume nationwide comes from sites where there is no sustainable management plan.)

o MAF predicts there is “relatively little capacity to increase private sustainable rimu production from private land”, though it projects that beech production from private land could double.

o The NZ Furniture Industry believes its competitive advantage over imported furniture is due to its use of native timber, mainly rimu. This is supported by a 1999 survey, which reveals that 71% of consumers prefer native timbers to exotic wood for furniture. Furthermore, 86% of consumers would like to see rimu furniture available for future generations so long as it comes from sustainably-managed forests.

o With reduced native timber availability, MAF says the NZ Furniture Industry may respond by importing tropical hardwoods and other suitable timbers, but that it may find it difficult to compete with ‘third-world’ manufacturers using the same timbers.

o MAF says the value of remaining native timber sources is likely to increase if there is a shortfall in supply. This means that the cost of negotiating settlements with the owners of land where unsustainable logging continues is likely to increase. (Ecologic believes it will also encourage those owners to increase their unsustainable production of native timber in the meantime, and decrease the likelihood of negotiated settlements being achieved at all).

FULL COPIES OF THE MAF BRIEFING ARE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST.

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