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Forest Activist Acquitted Of Charge

19 January 2001

Forest Activist Acquitted Of Intentional Damage Charge

Native Forest Action’s West Coast spokesperson appeared at Westport District Court today relating to a charge of intentional damage. Mr Russell had spray-painted "Welcome to the Buller - where we’re still logging kiwi habitat!" on an abandoned railway loading bank in Westport in August last year. At the time, SOE Timberlands West Coast was logging Orikaka forest which is inhabited by great spotted kiwis. After complimenting Peter Russell on the neatness of his graffiti, Judge Somerville discharged him without conviction.

"Timberlands had announced they were leaving Orikaka forest to avoid disturbing kiwis during their breeding season," Mr Russell said. "But they were still logging Mokihinui Forest while kiwis were breeding there. The only intentional damage was being done by Timberlands to the forests. I felt locals and visitors to our district should know what was really going on".

"The loading bank seemed fair game for political messages because it had been abandoned for years and pro-logging graffiti had remained on it for several months," said Mr Russell. "Graffiti is a sign of a healthy democracy and is an important form of non-violent protest. Provided it’s done tastefully in appropriate places like this I think it’s a generally appreciated part of New Zealand culture”.

Mr Russell’s main concern was that great spotted kiwis are extremely sensitive while incubating eggs. One scientific paper* states that "the birds are easily alarmed in the first few weeks of incubation… [and] usually respond to disturbance by smashing their egg and kicking it out.…" "Incubating kiwis would obviously be disturbed by chainsaws, falling trees and helicopters," said Mr Russell. "But that’s just one example of the types of impacts even so-called sustainable logging would have on the forests".

"It’s madness that SOE Timberlands is still logging the habitat of other threatened species in South Westland rimu forests," said Mr Russell. "Native Forest Action is continuing to call for an immediate end to the logging of publicly owned native forests on the West Coast. This is long overdue, especially now government has handed over $135m in compensation to the West Coast".

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* McLennan, JA and McCann, AJ, 1992. Ecology of Great Spotted Kiwi, Apteryx haastii. Department of Conservation Investigation No. 509, DSIR Land Resources Contract Report No. 91/48, section 5.6.2.


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