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Forestry Report Unsurprising

Monday 11 June 2001

On the 30th of May 2001 the report of the Review Committee appointed on 24th July 2000 by the Labour government was released. Interestingly, it was printed as long ago as November 2000.

The conclusions and recommendations of this report contain no surprises. The cards were dealt from a stacked deck. The committee had little wider mandate than to allocate the 132,000 ha of Timberlands West Coast Ltd indigenous forest land (actually, State forest land) to the control of the Department of Conservation, to be locked up. That is what they were set up to do, and would also be the inclination of those appointed to the committee. Public input was prohibited, apparently.

What IS worth comment are the associated Press Releases of Ministers of State.

Take, for example. the Hon. Pete Hodgson, Minister of Forests.

He said that exotic pine management has always been Timberlands’ core business.

Putting aside for the moment the fact that integrated management of all the TWC forests under the contract of the West Coast Accord was more correctly seen as the core business of TWC until Labour unethically did away with it, their business can be seen otherwise.

Had the sustainable management of beech forests proceeded as intended in 1999, by now the value of the sustainable yield of beech and rimu would have been $ 36,900,000 per annum compared with $30,085,000 for pine. The value of those special purpose indigenous timbers would have risen much faster than the lower-valued commodity material, pine. But Labour hid this truth. Note, the unsustainable clearfelling used to fill a gap in supply is excluded from these figures.

So - which would have been the core business?

Next the Minister said that TWC was focussed on maximising the value of its exotic plantings.

Whose exotic plantings? Last year in near-secrecy, all of the publicly-owned State exotic forest and land that TWC managed on behalf of all New Zealanders, was handed to Ngai Tahu. Whose forest now? And the history of Ngai Tahu in respect of exotic forest is that they seem to have no interest in forest management, and one can expect them to flog the forest off to the highest bidder as they have done with other exotic forests - probably to an overseas company.

Just where has the Minister has been for the last couple of years?.

Next comes some innuendo - bits of political rhetoric that just slipped out - to (hopefully) imbue lies with a good flavour. “The Government ... ... has accepted its responsibility to protect prime remnants of lowland indigenous forest. New Zealand does not need to log these forests.”

What’s the problem with these clauses?

Locking up these dynamic, ever-changing forests under DOC won’t provide the active sustainable management they need.

Protect them from what? Logging? By using this word the Minister hopes to fool readers into thinking that the forests were to have been destroyed through harvesting. We all know that the TWC sustainable management processes are among the most highly evolved in the world. They would ensure that not only would the biota benefit more than through “locking up”, but that the humans who live in the region would also have a stake in the management and also benefit. They too are part of the ecology of the region.

Protect the indigenous animals from the alien predators? It is well known and documented that TWC did a far better job of predator control in its forest than DOC has ever done overall.

The Minister would be well advised to get his facts straight.

These throw-away lines also try to fool us into thinking that there is no need for the special purpose timbers that those beech and rimu can supply. Little could be further from the truth.

Let’s replace the last quoted sentence with “New Zealand does not need the perpetually-sustainable yield of special-purpose timbers that these forests can provide if managed in a conservation-enhancing way”, and the untruths are exposed.

Last year New Zealand imported $102 million dollars’ worth of furniture and timber suitable for furniture manufacture. It is among the $1,104 million dollars’ worth of forest products we imported that year. That is, $102 million dollar’s worth of special purpose timbers that beech and rimu can in part substitute for. Up from the $ 82 million of the previous year; both years before the TWC supply was cut off.

We HAVE no other credible internal source of such timber, and the Minister has neither the means, nor probably any plans to provide such a source. We are practically bankrupt for this wood, and the nearly $40 million dollars’ worth annually of perpetually and sustainably produced timber from TWC forests would have gone a long way toward self-sufficiency - and jobs for our 4,000 timber-finishing workers.

New Zealand certainly DOES need this timber, and since it has the expertise, SHOULD carefully use it.

And management of the forests in a conservation-enhancing way? Evidential papers for the TWC resource consent hearings, available on my web-site, prove that TWC had the means and the will to provide excellent management by any standards.

Prime remnants of lowland indigenous forest ?

Not only is the 132,000 ha of TWC forests merely the 7.5 percent left over of the ex-NZ Forest Service forests after the remaining 92.5 percent was allocated to DOC to take care of, and included the most desirable biological sites, but 50 percent of that 7.5 percent had already been damaged by mining and other operations. Most of the rest were not particularly noteworthy in a biological sense.

What New Zealand and the world has just witnessed is a shameless, illogical, and un-necessary land-grab by people who should know better, but who, by their own confession, have seen fit to continue a fanatical battle from 30 years ago. The animosity behind it is directed at all those who are in the profession of managing forests, those who live in a naturally forested landscape and live from it.

Who knows why the Minister wrote what he did, but clearly he is no advocate for forestry or biodiversity in New Zealand.

ENDS


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