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Good News For Conservation And The Coast

Labour's West Coast forests policy announced today has won praise from the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society

"It's an exciting initiative which recognises the national and international importance of the West Coast's beech and rimu forests and the many unique plants and animals which they support," Forest and Bird deputy president, Bill Gilbertson said today.

"The policy will unlock the Timberlands forests to provide long term and sustainable jobs in tourism, outdoor recreation, predator control and conservation management."

"Instead of sawlogs being shipped off the Coast and overseas for processing, the forests and their biological treasure chests remain for all to enjoy and benefit from."

"A 1998 Department of Conservation report concluded that 92% of the forests managed by Timberlands satisfied the criteria for protection by the Nature Heritage Fund," Mr Gilbertson said.

"Some of the natural jewels which should be protected under Labour's policy include: * 13,000 ha of magnificent red and silver beech forests of the east bank of the Maruia now being "trial logged" by Timberlands;

* Orikaka's rimu/beech forest (6,450 ha) near Westport where Timberlands began heavy logging in July;

* The glacial terrace rimu forests of North Okarito and Saltwater where Timberlands claims to be logging "sustainably" with no independent evidence that logging is not having a major adverse effect on the forest's habitat values and functioning."

"The establishment of Paparoa National Park in 1987 has seen a mushrooming of accommodation, tourist and outdoor recreation businesses along the Coast road and in the Punakaiki and Greymouth areas - bed and breakfasts, motels, backpacker lodges, cafes, black water rafting, guided canoeing and walking trips, sea tours and similar activities. Eco tourism and accommodation businesses in South Westland boomed with the establishment of the South West World Heritage area and the provision of community business funding."

"The protection of the forests currently mismanged by Timberlands, combined with a local strategy and regional funding to develop a tourism and recreation infrastructure and services, especially in North Westland and Buller, can bring similar gains for the Coast."

A community trust which managed Timberlands' plantation forests is far more likely to encourage local processing of plantation pine. Currently at least 52% of pine from Timberlands forests is sent to Canterbury, Nelson and elsewhere for processing.

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