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Beech Project Positive Says Conservationist

The development of sustainable beech production on private land on the West Coast is a positive move, which should slow the rapid rise of wooden furniture imports sourced from heavy logging of tropical forests, the Ecologic Foundation said today.

“The value of imported wooden furniture, which was around $20 million for many years up to 1993, has since grown five-fold to $104 million, in parallel to the steep decline in New Zealand’s native wood production,” said Ecologic’s executive director, Guy Salmon.

“These imports grew by a huge 30% last year. Almost 70 percent of them are from tropical countries where forests are being devastated, against the wishes of the indigenous people who live in them.

“New Zealand has imitated Japan – preserving our own forests while meeting domestic needs for specialty woods through trashing other people’s forests.

“Kit Richards is showing us that there is a better way – we can manage a small proportion of our own native forests with near-zero impact, and create jobs in New Zealand.”

Mr Salmon said New Zealand had 650,000 ha of privately-owned native forest, mostly belonging to Maori, which was capable of sustainable wood production. This was five times the size of the Timberlands West Coast resource, and could be a significant source of Maori economic development.

He said two things had always been inevitable about the Government’s policy on West Coast native forests. The first was that logging pressure would simply move from publicly-owned forests to privately-owned forests. The second was that the $120 million compensation fund would mainly be invested in natural resource development, because that was the main opportunity for job creation on the West Coast.

“The Government will have to get used to controversial resource developments being subsidized from this compensation fund – but they won’t necessarily be bad.

“The West Coast leadership has thought a lot harder about how to earn a sustainable livelihood than most New Zealanders have, and they will pioneer some worthwhile projects, like this one.”

…ends

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