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Forest Decision: One Step Forward, 10 Steps Back

The Government's long awaited native forest policy announced today was one step forward and 10 huge steps backward for native forest conservation, according to the Forest and Bird Protection Society.

Forest and Bird's Conservation Director, Kevin Smith, said the most significant element of the policy was the proposal to remove the legislative ban on the export of native woodchips.

"The proposed legislation will enable Timberlands West Coast to export woodchips from the 130,000 hectares of publicly-owned native forest on the West Coast."

Mr Smith said Government claims that woodchip exports would only be allowed from so-called sustainably managed forests was no reassurance at all.

"Woodchips are not exported in barrow loads, trailer loads or even container loads, but in large ship loads. Each single ship load contains the equivalent of 350 hectares of native forest and the certain death of 2,500 native birds that would inhabit an area of forest of this size."

Mr Smith said the Government decision to expose New Zealand forests to the woodchip threat again was an extraordinary one as they had paid out $28 million during the early 1990s as compensation for the introduction of a ban on native woodchip exports.

"National has done a huge U-turn in its forest policy and caved in to pressure from the woodchip industry."

Forest and Bird said native woodchip exports would begin immediately the legislation was enacted from the publicly-owned Longwoods forest in Western Southland where loggers have been stockpiling beech chip logs for several months in anticipation of today's announcement.

"Yet National gave assurances, when the cutting rights to the 12,000 hectare Longwood-Rowallan forests were allocated to a Maori incorporation as part of the Waitutu forest protection deal, that the forests would not be wood chipped."

"We predict Timberlands West Coast will now be planning to unleash a wave of woodchipping on the West Coast beech forests. Timberlands West Coast have been seeking an outlet for beech woodchip for some time, despite their publicity about high quality furniture uses from beech timber," said Mr Smith.

"They have been unable to obtain a domestic outlet for beech chip because of the environment policies of local fibreboard plant owners. But now they can export direct to the Japanese pulp mills that have swallowed so much of the world's rainforests."

Forest and Bird said the step forward for forest conservation was tighter restrictions on woodchip exports from Southland and Otago Maori land and the hope of a moratorium on the logging of these forests which have been exempt from the Forests Act sustainable management and export controls.

"The moratorium will come at a cost, however, of about $750,000 a year, with no guarantee any forest will be protected at the end of the day. Previous costly moratoriums on native forest logging in Southland have not worked but we hope the Maori landowners will this time commit themselves to the protection of the precious native forests they have guardianship over."

Forest and Bird will be encouraging its members to write submissions on the Forests Act Amendment Bill and will seek to overturn the woodchip export provisions.


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