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Ecologic Forest Comment Illogical

Forest and Bird Deputy President Bill Gilbertson said today he strongly disagreed with comment from Guy Salmon of the Ecologic Foundation that protecting West Coast rimu forests would backfire on native forest conservation.

Mr Salmon has said that a halt to the Coast rimu logging would encourage the felling of private native forest by forcing up the price of rimu timber.

"If we were to accept Guy Salmon's logic then we would still be logging kauri forest and the logging of publicly owned native forests right round the country would never have been stopped. Every time a native forest in New Zealand was spared from the axe and then the chainsaw, the potential supply of native timber to the market was reduced."

"It is a silly argument to invoke in a bid to prevent the protection of the World Heritage-quality rimu rainforests of North Okarito and Saltwater in South Westland."

Mr Gilbertson said Ecologic's prediction that native timber prices would go through the roof ignored the alternatives to native timber.

"Canterbury once framed most of its houses out of West Coast rimu. Today, they are using radiata pine. Similarly, once timber supplies of ancient rimu rainforests are reduced, people will substitute radiata pine and other plantation timbers, including macrocarpa and eucalypt. Already furniture makers are winning design awards with pine furniture. New techniques also exist for altering the appearance of pine timber to mimic rimu and other finer-grained timber."

"The New Zealand furniture industry has mined our scarce native forests for its raw materials for far too long. If the industry is to have a future it must go green, just as our building industry has, and switch to plantation timbers."

Mr Gilbertson said greater controls were needed on the logging of native forests on private land but these could be achieved by more effective application of the Resource Management Act and the Forests Act, and through greater funding of the Nature Heritage Fund."

"It would be foolish in the extreme for New Zealand to adopt Ecologic's advice and try and save privately-owned native forests by continuing to log some of the greatest tracts of rainforest the world has ever seen."

"It saddens me to see Guy Salmon fighting so hard to try and prevent the protection of North Okarito forest when 24 years ago he rallied thousands of New Zealanders to the defence of this very forest."

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