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Forests’ Announcement – A Momentous Decision

May 31, 2001 - Wellington

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

West Coast Forests’ Announcement – A Momentous Decision

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is delighted with the Government’s decision to transfer all of the indigenous forests currently managed by Timberlands West Coast Ltd (130,000 ha) to the Department of Conservation.

“New Zealanders can be very proud that there is no longer to be any Government sponsored logging of indigenous forests and that the biological, landscape, and recreational values of these lowland rainforests are getting the recognition and protection they so richly deserve,” Forest and Bird’s Deputy President, Bill Gilbertson said.

“These West Coast rainforests are a biological treasure house because of the number and diversity of native species that they support. They provide habitat for many species threatened with extinction such as Okarito brown kiwi, giant land snail, kaka, kakariki (parakeet) the native long tailed bat and plants such as mistletoe.”

“Government’s decision to silence the chainsaws and protect these forests is an historic and momentous conservation initiative. It is the culmination of the efforts of thousands of New Zealanders and several generations of environmentalists over more than 25 years,” Mr Gilbertson said.

The West Coast forests’ campaign began in the 1970s with the Forest Service’s ongoing clear-felling of podocarp forest and its conversion to plantation pine and its 1973 proposals for a beech chip scheme affecting thousands of hectares of beech forest on the West Coast, in Nelson and Southland.

“The Government’s commitment to investigate the independent panel’s proposals for new Mawhera and Kawatiri Conservation Parks and a new Maruia/Waiau National Park is welcome news. This would provide Greymouth, Westport, and Reefton with parks on their doorsteps.”

Mr Gilbertson said the creation of these parks could enable these towns to enjoy the same growth in nature tourism which Punakaiki and Haast have experienced since the establishment of Paparoa National Park in 1987 and the South West World Heritage Area in 1990.

“Conservation status for all of the current Timberlands managed forests will unlock them for a whole range of recreational uses from mountain biking and tramping to nature photography and guided walks.”

Mr Gilbertson said that the establishment of consultative committees could help promote recreation and nature tourism development in the new protected areas.

“The community consultative committee established when the South West World Heritage Area was created in 1990 helped the Department of Conservation to plan the development of a series of roadside walks and recreation facilities now enjoyed by thousands of New Zealanders and tourists.”

“The $1 million in additional funding for the Department of Conservation should help provide for more extensive pest control than that undertaken by Timberlands on its predator control budget of $100,000 annually,” Mr Gilbertson said. “Ongoing pest control is required to maintain the ecological character of these areas.”

“The proposed new Maruia-Waiau National Park would provide long overdue protection of the outstanding wildlife, ecological and landscape values of Maruia’s red and silver beech forests and the landscapes of the Lewis Pass,” he said.

“The proposed addition of South Okarito forest to Westland/Tai Poutini National Park will enable a valuable expansion of range for the Okarito brown kiwi and will protect an outstanding area of lowland rainforest.”

Ends

Eric Pyle
Conservation Manager
email: e.pyle@wng.forest-bird.org.nz

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