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DOC Scientists Critical Of Impacts Of Beech Scheme



Department of Conservation (DoC) scientists have criticised Timberlands’ proposed beech logging scheme for its likely serious impacts on native wildlife and threatened plant species.

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society today released expert evidence prepared by DoC scientists for last month’s resource consent hearings. The hearing was abandoned after the new Government rejected the logging, before the evidence could be presented. Forest and Bird obtained the reports using the Official Information Act.

“Given the previous National Government’s strong support for the beech scheme it was difficult for Department of Conservation scientists to voice their serious concerns about the impacts of the beech scheme,” Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

“Timberlands has repeatedly glossed over the damage which logging and activities such as roading cause to the forests’ habitat values for native plants and wildlife and to the forests’ functioning,” Ms Sage said.

The West Coast beech forests which Timberlands was proposing to log contain significant populations of 24 bird species and two bat species, all of which have absolute protection under the Wildlife Act 1953.

In draft expert evidence, the head of DoC’s Threatened Animals Research Programme, wildlife ecologist, Dr Colin O’Donnell described the forests in the Timberlands’ application area as having “outstanding wildlife values”. He concluded that “the logging proposed seems unlikely to sustain wildlife populations” and was contrary to the requirements of the Resource Management Act.

He said Timberlands’ “experimental logging is very risky, because there is a high probability (on the basis of past research) that threatened species will decline.” He criticised Timberlands for having done no modelling of the potential impacts of logging on wildlife.

Dr O’Donnell has more than 20 years experience in the study of forest birds and bats and has published over 40 refereed scientific papers and 20 management reports.

He criticised Timberlands’ proposals for small reserves of 100-200 ha as not providing viable reserves, nor preventing the negative impacts of logging on wildlife within the areas targeted for logging.

“The location and size of the reserves means that these will do little towards protecting viable populations of many wildlife species.... and would not support viable populations of threatened species such as South Island kaka, parakeets and long tailed bats,” Dr O’Donnell said.

He said the proposed logging regime did not appear to sustain old–age, large diameter “wildlife trees” needed to retain populations of sensitive hole-nesting birds and bats, particularly threatened species.

The logging would cause a significant short fall in the number of large old trees important for wildlife for foraging, nesting and roosting.

DoC botanist, Philip Knightbridge said that the forests targeted for logging included 19 plant species which were threatened with extinction or uncommon. They included nationally significant populations of species such as the beech mistletoes and several shrub and herb species. The lack of survey work in the Timberlands’ managed forests meant their distribution and abundance was unknown.

Logging would inevitably destroy beech trees which hosted mistletoe because of the difficulty of spotting these plants high in the canopy, Mr Knightbridge said.

Expert evidence from DoC’s freshwater ecologist, Dr Philippe Gerbeaux said that roading activities associated with logging were a major threat to aquatic instream values through barriers to fish migration and loss of habitat for native fish. He said the value of the waterways in the areas proposed for logging may have been under-estimated because of the lack of survey work.

The Department of Conservation asked the Buller and Tasman District Councils to decline Timberlands’ resource consent applications.


For further information please contact Eugenie Sage ph 03 3666 317 (wk) or
03 3371 251 (hme).

Appendix Key points from expert evidence by wildlife ecologist Dr Colin O’Donnell

Key points include:

- Timberlands’ logging regime “is new and has never been tested for its impacts on wildlife… no one knows the extent of (the) impacts.” “There are currently too many unanswered questions regarding whether wildlife populations will be able to be sustained within the forests proposed for logging.”

- Timberlands has not demonstrated that the logging proposed will sustain wildlife populations in perpetuity in the application area.

- forests in the Inangahua area (such as Orikaka) targeted for logging have some of the best kaka and parakeet counts recorded in New Zealand.

- Birds such kaka range over hundreds of hectares. Similarly, long tailed bats range over areas between 330 ha and 1589 ha (depending on the age of the bats and the stage of the breeding season). Dr O’Donnell said the proposed reserves covered very little of their range.

- DoC staff have recently discovered orange fronted parakeets in the Maruia forests. This threatened species has the same priority as the kakapo for conservation action to prevent it from becoming extinct.

- Some of the forests proposed for logging support some of the only significant populations of the threatened South Island long tailed bat. Forests in the Maruia valley have one of the highest bat activity levels recorded to date in New Zealand, with the exception of the Eglinton and Dart Valleys in Fiordland.

- All habitats where threatened species such as kaka and kiwi and the two bat species (long tailed and short tailed) occur should “be considered key sites for their recovery.”

- The conservation of bats in the Maruia forests is “of very high priority”

- Unless roosting sites for bats were identified and protected there was a high risk of localised logging wiping out a whole bat population. This is because research in Fiordland has shown that while bats feed over a 50 km 2 range at night, during the day they roost in patches of forest as small as 2 km 2. Timberlands has done little work on bats and roost sites and habitat areas in the application area were not identified.

- There are problems with Timberlands’ claim that logging pre-empts natural mortality. “It will be virtually impossible to predict which trees are going to die over the time frame of the logging cycles and on the scale of the proposed (logging)… There is no way to predict in which year and where, the natural windthrow events occur . Often trees which fall over in beech forest appear very healthy from the outside,” Dr O’Donnell said.

For a full copy of the evidence please contact Andrea Jackson, Department of Conservation, West Coast Conservancy ph 03 755 8301

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