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NZ poised for historic conservation achievement

12 May, 2000

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

New Zealand poised for historic conservation achievement

Contact: Bill Gilbertson, phone 03 548-4469


Conservationists are anticipating an historic achievement in rainforest conservation when Cabinet decides on Monday the future of publicly-owned West Coast native forests menaced by logging.

Forest and Bird's deputy president, Bill Gilbertson, said if Cabinet decides to stop the logging it will mark the end of a thirty year conservation campaign.

"We are confident the logging will end as both Labour and the Alliance went to the election committed to the protection of these great forests."

Mr Gilbertson said temperate rainforests were a globally rare ecosystem and covered less than 1% of the earth's land surface.

"Our ancient rainforests are of special significance as they are recognised internationally as one of just 25 global biodiversity hotspots. Rimu forests once co-existed with dinosaurs and are a living link to the earth's distant past."

Mr Gilbertson said key elements in the Government decision for Forest and Bird would be: * an early end to the destructive logging in the Buller's Orikaka forest; * a permanent end to the rimu logging in South and central Westland; * a commitment to protect all the indigenous forest areas as conservation parks and reserves; * additional funding for DoC to manage the forests for nature conservation, recreation and tourism.

"This is an exciting time for New Zealand and for the West Coast. Previous conservation initiatives on the Coast, such as the creation of the South West World Heritage Area or the Paparoa National Park, have been an environmental and economic boon. Few places in the world have such amazing natural landscapes as the West Coast."

Mr Gilbertson said he encouraged the furniture industry, which has lobbied for the logging to continue, to look forward to a future based on plantation timbers rather than continuing to live in the past, plundering rainforests.

"The Government should also move swiftly to restructure or dis-establish Timberlands West Coast. This top heavy SOE has been an economic lemon, losing money rather than making it. The future of the Coast forest industry depends on efficient economic management of the pine plantations. That will not occur without a big shake-up of Timberlands."

Mr Gilbertson said the West Coast was in an exceptionally privileged position.

"It will profit from the protection of the forests through employment in tourism and conservation, as well as receiving a $120 million payment from New Zealand taxpayers."

........ ends


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