Coast Benefits From $68 Million Asset Windfall
Critics of Labour’s indigenous forests policy have studiously ignored the $68 million asset windfall which the policy delivers to the West Coast community and potential additional gains from tourism related jobs say conservationists.
“No other community has previously been given such a valuable Crown asset as part of a conservation policy package,” Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.
“Timberlands West Coast Ltd manages 50,000 ha of plantation forest valued at $68 million in the company’s 1999 Annual Report. These forests would become a community asset administered by a community trust under the policy and generate a sizeable annual income stream for the Coast.
“Log sales from Timberlands’ exotic forests currently total $14 million annually and contributed to Timberlands’1999 after tax profit of $4.8 million (1999 Annual Report)
“Timberlands now produces 181,200 cubic metres of exotic logs annually from its plantation forests. With the volume of plantation sawlogs predicted to increase by 62% to around 290,000 cubic metres annually in 2003, this income stream is likely to grow substantially. (TWC 1998 and 1999 Annual Reports).
“Currently around 52 % of pine sawlogs from Timberlands’ forests including high and medium grade logs, is sent to Canterbury, Nelson and elsewhere for processing. A community trust is likely to be more committed than Timberlands or any private owner, to encouraging local processing of plantation pine, providing more local West Coast jobs,” she said.
“Forest and Bird has long called for the devolution of Timberlands’ pine plantations to the West Coast community and is delighted that it is part of the Labour’s policy package. West Coast mayors asked Government for the same thing in 1997 as did Coast Action Network very recently,” she said.
“It is hugely disappointing that CAN and others have ignored the economic gains for the West Coast from the major asset windfall which the plantation forests represent and from eco-tourism,” Ms Sage said.
“Many people have capitalised on the tourism opportunity which the establishment of Paparoa National Park in 1987 represented. The number of accommodation, tourist and outdoor recreation businesses along the Coast road and in the Punakaiki and Greymouth areas has mushroomed to include bed and breakfasts, motels, backpacker lodges, cafes, black water rafting, guided canoeing and walking trips, sea tours and similar activities.
“There are similar opportunities associated with North Westland and Buller’s magnificent beech forests through improved visitor facilities, better signage, more visitor interpretation and development of easy roadside walks,” she said.