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Forest and Bird takes Prime Minister to task

Conservationists say Prime Minister Jenny Shipley's statements implying that her Government has ended logging of Buller forests are misleading when Timberlands West Coast Ltd has in the last month begun logging the magnificent and largely untouched Orikaka Forest.

"It is a nonsense to suggest that Government has ended the logging of Buller forests when in July 1999 Timberlands began logging the 6,400 ha Orikaka Forest on the north bank of the Buller, which has never previously been logged by the company. Eighty five percent of Orikaka Forest is pristine old growth forest which supports more than half a dozen native species threatened with extinction, including great spotted kiwi," said Forest and Bird field officer Eugenie Sage.

"The cut-off date set by Government for the heavy logging in the Buller is December 2000. By then Timberlands will have ripped the heart out of Orikaka Forest by logging between 6,000 rimu trees (Timberlands' estimates) and 12,000 trees (Forest and Bird's estimates)."

The Forests Amendment Bill now being considered by the Transport and Environment select committee endorses such logging.

Ms Sage said Timberlands' claims that it is "supplying information", not lobbying, are scarcely credible given its extravagant spending on public relations.

In the year ended 31 March 1998 Timberlands spent $697,200 on public relations consultants, publications and sponsorship. Staff salaries and the company's in-house PR costs are on top of this. (Figures from report to the Primary Production select committee on 25 September 1998.)

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"What private company, particularly a small forestry company of Timberlands' size with around 45 staff, spends 10% of its revenue on public relations?"

"The high proportion of revenue devoted to public relations expenditure is further evidence that Timberlands long ago crossed the line between providing information to Government and engaging in active lobbying. In so doing it has attempted to manipulate public, media and political opinion in order to get support for its beech logging scheme and to justify the continued destruction of Buller's rimu forests," Ms Sage said.

Timberlands' revenue from rimu and beech log sales in the year ended 31 March 1998 totalled $10,355,000. (This comprises $10,046,000 from rimu sales and $309,000 from beech sales).

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