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Kevin Smith: a conservation giant passes away

KEVIN SMITH: a conservation giant passes away

A mighty kahikatea has fallen.

Pint-sized Kevin Smith was a conservation heavyweight.

He raced against time in the early 1980s, as the Government oversaw the destruction of publicly owned native forests by logging and incineration through aerial firebombing.

During the 1980s and 1990s Kevin campaigned to bring wide public and political awareness to the tragic end being met by our natural heritage. He lobbied politicians with skill and persuasion, faced angry public meetings on the West Coast and eventually worked within the Department of Conservation to ensure that the West Coast native forests - and many others besides - were protected.

Kevin controversially encouraged Forest and Bird to sign the West Coast Accord in 1986 which allowed tenders be let for a beech forest logging scheme, but also led to the creation of Paparoa National Park.

Despite the creation of Paparoa National Park and protection of South Westland forests, logging of rimu, beech, matai and kahikatea continued by SOE Timberlands. In 1997, Native Forest Action began a tree-sit forest occupation in Charleston Forest. With Kevin as Conservation Director of Forest and Bird, the organisations worked together to end all the native forest logging on public land, resulting in numerous new conservation reserves and extensions to national parks.

Nationally, we have all benefited from Kevin’s brilliant wit, determination and political acumen. All over the country, there are areas you drive past, that Kevin had a hand in protecting. He was a taonga.

His outstanding conservation work spanned marine, freshwater and high country. But the day the final rimu fell in North Okarito Forest, ending government-sanctioned native forest logging on public land, was testament to the brilliant determination of a man who loved these forests.

What greater legacy to leave: thousands of hectares of ancient rainforest protected for generations to enjoy. We just wish you could have had longer to enjoy them yourself.

Good bye and thank you Kevin, Native Forest Action lay ponga fronds at the feet of this great kahikatea.


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