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Forest researchers on Labour and Beech Scheme

Senior forest researchers call on Minister to honour Labour party principles

University of Canterbury
December 22 1999

Dr Euan Mason, senior lecturer and Dr Graham Whyte, formerly a Reader at the New Zealand School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury, today called on Hon. Pete Hodgson, Minister of Forestry, to honour Labour party principles and allow the Resource Management Act (RMA) hearings on the beech scheme to resume.

Labour party policy states that "Labour is committed to sustainable development in which economic, environmental and social considerations are not considered separately but are melded into one.". "This was the essence of the proposal by Timberlands to sustainably manage 0.1 million hectares of our 2.8 million hectares of beech forest", said Dr Mason.

On the RMA, Labour party policy states, "Sustainable management of our unique natural and physical resources is vital to New Zealand's social, economic and environmental well-being. Labour strongly supports the Resource Management Act because it provides an integrated, participatory, and transparent approach to planning for sustainable management." The government had earlier prevented an RMA hearing on the sustainability of Timberlands' sustainable beech management scheme from proceeding, however.

Yesterday the Minister, Pete Hodgson, was reported as saying that the ecological sustainability of the scheme was questionable, "not a scientifically proven fact". With that in mind the Government had decided "in favour of conservation rather than exploitation". But, "by stopping the RMA consent process, the government has prevented several eminent scientists, as well as us two, from explaining why TWC's approach with controlling, monitoring and auditing and an adaptive management system, was likely to have a much better chance of being sustainable than the lock-up philosophy that appears to dominate Labour's thinking", Dr Whyte said.

"The RMA requires a thorough evaluation of project sustainability, but this was stopped by the Minister", said Dr Mason. "To put our heads in the sand and say that we won't address the sustainability question is simply ludicrous, and goes against principles of good government that the Labour party says it believes in. How can we hope to have sustainable development if the sustainability of a project cannot be examined?", they asked.

Earlier this week, the two scientists released a statement critical of a model of beech forests built by Dr Murray Efford, the main research study quoted by opponents of the beech scheme. "What Dr Efford's model software implies is that a gap created by a tree that dies naturally will support the growth of new young beech trees, while the same gap created by harvesting of a dying tree will not ever support new beech trees. This is ecological nonsense", said Dr Mason, "and we have access to evidence to prove that".

The TWC scheme is an effective way of maintaining the ecological integrity of the beech forest because Timberlands would control introduced pests that are currently degrading our native forests, an expensive task that would otherwise have to be paid for by the public.

The two researchers call on the Minister to allow hearings into the beech scheme to resume so that the question of ecological sustainability can be examined in a scientific, democratic way.

Contacts:

Dr Mason

Phone: 03 3642584
Fax: 03 3642124
Email: fore057@canterbury.ac.nz

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