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Conservationists Challenge Academics

MEDIA RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE USE

12 January, 2000

Conservationists Challenge University Forestry Academics

Contact: Keith Chapple, phone 07 895 4560 or 025 517 020

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Forestry scientists at Canterbury University's School of Forestry have been challenged by conservationists to address the key threats facing New Zealand forestry rather than campaigning for the logging of New Zealand's rainforests.

The Forest and Bird Protection Society's President, Keith Chapple, said the School of Forestry was out of touch with the wishes of the public and with the realities of New Zealand forestry.

Professor Sands, the head of the Forestry School, called last week for an inquiry into the Government's decision to halt Timberlands West Coast's beech logging plans. He described the Government's decision as a knee jerk, politically expedient, damaging move that ended a logging scheme of "remarkable conservation significance".

Mr Chapple said that while academic freedom of speech was important he questioned the mandate Professor Sands and the Forestry School had to campaign vigorously for a resumption of beech forest logging immediately after a general election that had given political parties opposed to the logging a clear majority of votes, both nationally and in the West Coast-Tasman electorate.

"The Professor and his School of Forestry's obsessive promotion of rainforest logging ignores the big issues facing New Zealand forestry. Over 99% of New Zealand's wood production comes from plantation forests and New Zealand is recognised internationally as a world leader in plantation forest management. The New Zealand forest industry promotes our plantation timber as an environmentally acceptable alternative to rainforest logging. They do this with the blessing of conservationists through the New Zealand Forest Accord and this can give them a significant market advantage."

Mr Chapple said the Forestry School should be focusing on the threats to our plantation forest industry rather than trying to overturn the election outcome.

"New alien insect or fungal pests could devastate New Zealand's plantation forests yet forestry academics are missing from the public debates over the adequacy of border biosecurity. Their contribution could help counter the lobbying of overseas shipping companies that insist on sending us used vehicles contaminated with insect pests such as the voracious Asian gypsy moth."

"Nor should it be taken for granted that the international marketplace will accept the environmental claims made for New Zealand's plantations. Our forestry academics need to be leading the way with research and advice on ways of improving the environmental sustainability of our plantations."

Mr Chapple said that millions of public dollars had been squandered over the last thirty years on rainforest logging research.

"It is hard to identify any lasting benefits for the West Coast from this research. All that foresters have come up with is logging schemes that are, at best, marginally viable even when only peppercorn royalties are charged for the felled rainforest logs."

Mr Chapple said the creation of national parks or reserves on the West Coast had, unlike indigenous forestry, been an economic boon generating employment and wealth without causing significant environmental damage.

......... ends

Note: MAF statistics for wood production from NZ forests for 1999: Indigenous logs = 125,000 cubic metres. Exotic logs = 15,689,000 cubic metres


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