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Index

Chapter 1 - What Forests are Being Logged? Chapter 2 - The West Coast Accord Chapter 3 - Conservation and West Coast Jobs
  Chapter 5 - Facts & Fallacies  

Chapter 1

What Forests Are Being Logged?

Details concerning the West Coast forests being logged by Timberlands

Lowland Forests

Over 80% of New Zealand was forested when people first arrived. Now only 23% survives. The majority of these remaining forests are high altitude forests. A mere fragment of native lowland forest is left.

Lowland native forest generally have higher conservation value than higher altitude forest. This is because they are located on fertile soils, in warmer climates and can thereby support higher biological diversity than forests at higher altitudes. The loss of these forests helped to cause massive extinctions of local and regional populations of many native bird species in a country whose terrestrial biota was dominated by birds. The few lowland forests that survive are immensely important habitat for native wildlife. This is particularly true for larger areas of intact forest which provide more stable environments than smaller fragments.

In pre-European times large areas of lowland forest in the dryer eastern regions were lost to burning. When Europeans arrived it was the lowland forests which were removed for farmland. Wetland and alluvial forests were among the first to disappear to make way for dairy farming and horticulture. This is true even on the West Coast which is the most forested region in the country. For example, even in the relatively richly forested Hokitika Ecological District the area of lowland alluvial podocarp forest reduced from 19.2% in 1860 to less than 0.1% today. This represents only 0.2% of the existing unmodified vegetation in that District. The story is much the same in the Grey Valley, the Buller, and (to a lesser extent) south of Hokitika.

Forests that were not wanted for agriculture were left standing. These were the higher altitude forests on poorer soils which form the majority of our reserves system. Small patches of lowland forest were protected, many as scenic reserves, but most large areas have long since disappeared.

Conservation Efforts
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The lowland forests that have survived are located on both private and public land. Those which remain unprotected are the target for current conservation efforts. The largest area of unprotected lowland native forest is found on public land on the West Coast of the South Island. These forests are controlled by Timberlands West Coast Ltd - a state owned enterprise set up in the early 1990s following a process where the forests of the West Coast were divided between conservation and production (see Information Series No. 2).

The current campaign by Native Forest Action (and other groups including Forest and Bird and ECO) targets those precious lowland forests that were allocated to production. The basic principles behind this campaign include the following:-

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  • These forests are too precious to log (even "sustainably") because they represent some of the best native forests in the country.
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  • There is no economic need to log these forests as there is sufficient exotic forest on public and private land to satisfy a timber industry on the West Coast.
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  • The time is right for New Zealand to end its logging of native forest on public land for ever.

Forest Types
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There are four broad categories of native on the West Coast. These are 1. Almost pure beech forests of the Maruia - Matakitaki area, 2. Podocarp forests (e.g. rimu, totara, miro,) of the Westland "beech gap" between Greymouth and Fox Glacier where beech trees have not returned since the last glaciation, and 3. Mixed beech-podocarp forests of north Westland and Buller (much of which has rich botanical diversity, notably all that on limestone, and includes the "Buller Overcut" forests and most of the Beech scheme).

The podocarp forests of Westland are diverse rain forests of mixed species although they tend to have large volumes of rimu. They represent an ancient forest type that is unique to Aotearoa and the ones David Bellamy calls "the dinosaur forests." Beech forests tend to be less diverse (i.e. dominated by one or two beech species) but in many places have zones of rimu mixed with beech.

The Department of Conservation assessment of the conservation values of these forests found that 93% of them meet the standards of the Forest Heritage Fund (60% well above them). This means that if these public forests were privately owned the Government would seek to buy them to protect them from logging.

Logging Regimes
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Three main types of logging are currently happening in these public forests. There is 1. The "Buller Overcut" - the unsustainable logging in the Buller where NFAs actions began, 2. "Sustainable" logging in South Westland, and 3. The Think-Big Beech Scheme.

THE BULLER OVERCUT

The Buller Overcut represents native forests that were allocated to clear felling as a means of keeping local mills running during a transition period that would end once sufficient exotic forests became available. The exotics have been available for some years, but Timberlands has argued it can keep logging rimu until 2006. This extremely destructive but profitable rimu logging in the Buller Gorge and the Charleston area involves logging virtually all the rimu and other podocarp trees from the podocarp-beech forests, wrecking the forest structure and severely reducing their ecological value. The Government recently announced, in response to NFA and Forest and Bird protests, that this logging would end at the end of the year 2000. By this time most of the valuable rimu will have been removed.

SUSTAINED YIELD LOGGING
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The sustained yield logging has no finish date. The logging is planned at a rate that allows it to happen in perpetuity (i.e. when they finish logging every part of the forest the trees in the area logged first are ready for logging again). there are two areas:

One is the smaller scale logging of podocarp (e.g. rimu) forests in South Westland. The other is the massive "Beech Scheme."

Okarito And Saltwater

The forests of Okarito and Saltwater are outstanding examples of lowland podocarp forest. Forests in South Okarito are part of the South Westland World Heritage. The 5,613ha North Okarito forest, which should be added to the World Heritage site is being logged by Timberlands. This forest represents the largest unlogged area of rimu on glacial outwash terraces. Okarito is to rimu what Waipoua is to kauri.

Like Saltwater, it is part of a coastal lagoon-forest sequence that has disappeared from almost all other parts of the country. The southern end of this forest has been partially logged in the past. The 4,000ha Saltwater forest lies to the north of Okarito and supports the highest biodiversity of birds of any forest in South Westland. All of this forest had been selectively logged but the forest structure is intact and it remains a high priority for protection.

The Beech Scheme
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The "Beech Scheme" is planned for the beech forests of the Grey valley, the Maruia valley, and the Buller. Like the rimu logging in South Westland it involves sustained yield logging. Unlike the logging in South Westland it is massive in scale, involving some 80,000ha of forest. Although named a "beech" scheme it is really a rimu and beech scheme. The Beech Scheme started in 1998 when Timberlands began logging beech in the Maruia Valley. This was before it had been announced by the Government and prior to any public consultation over its management plans.

As in Okarito and Saltwater, Timberlands is sending its logging gangs into the best areas of forest (like Maruia) first, to head off proposals for them to become national parks. In other Beech Scheme areas Timberlands appears to be targeting the highly profitable rimu in these forests. In fact the beech scheme gives Timberlands access to large volumes of rimu which, with the help of helicopters, will be removed from throughout these expansive forests, even in the most remote areas.

What Can You Do?
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GET INVOLVED

Native Forest Action has a number of branches around the country. These branches organise actions, letter writing, fund raising, and public awareness and help to run the national campaign.

Branch Contacts:

Far North - Richard McIntosh 09 407 4115; Auckland - Steve Abel 09 378 1634; Palmerston North - Ray Webster 06 353 2403; Wellington - Dean Baigent-Mercer 04 383 5168; Nelson - Jenny Coleman,03 545 6040; Christchurch - Sean Weaver 03 332 8671; West Coast - Annette Cotter 03 789 8734. Dunedin - James Palmer 03 482 1974.

MAKE A DONATION

Native Forest Action is a voluntary organisation and its campaign can only continue while it has the funds to do so. If you can make a donation please do. Donations of over $5 are tax deductible. Send a cheque to: Native Forest Action Incorporated, PO Box 836 Nelson.

Support Our Pledge Scheme

If you would like to make a regular payment to Native Forest Action as a direct credit from your bank account please send a request for information to our Nelson Office.


Chapter 2

The West Coast Accord

The 1986 agreement used by Timberlands to justify its outdated native logging

An Agreement
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The West Coast Accord, signed in 1986, did not guarantee the logging that Timberlands is currently doing.

The largest area of unprotected lowland native forest is found on public land on the West Coast of the South Island. These forests are controlled by Timberlands West Coast Ltd - a state owned enterprise set up in the early 1990s following a land allocation process known as the West Coast Accord. As a result of this agreement the forests of the West Coast were divided between conservation and production. During that allocation process most of the forests that went to conservation were at higher altitudes. Even though some very good lowland forest went into reserves, far too much was given over to logging.

Conservation In The 1980s

During the 1980s conservationists were struggling to get all of the valuable forests of the West Coast protected, which included the lowland forests currently being logged by Timberlands. The West Coast Accord was a deal that gave two thirds of the best forests to production, yielding to the then powerful sawmilling lobby. In the mid-1980s there were 100s of jobs reliant on native forestry. Today all but a handful can be supported by exotic plantations. Conservationists were divided between those who supported the Accord and those who did not. Many environmentalists at the time were dismayed at the deal that was arranged because it put many extremely valuable forests under the chain-saw.

Transition
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The Accord was an agreement between conservation, local authorities and forestry development interests. It was designed to provide a transition to exotic forestry at a time when the majority of pine plantations on the West Coast were too young to harvest. It provided a means to protect the sawmilling industry on the West Coast by allocating sufficient quantities of native timber for milling until adequate supplies of exotic timber became available.

Signatories of this agreement included the West Coast United Council; Native Forest Action Council (not to be confused with Native Forest Action); Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society; Federated Mountain Clubs; West Coast Timber Association; Westland Timber Workers Union; and, the Crown.

Conservation vs Logging

As a result of the West Coast Accord a number of reserves were established including the Paparoa National Park. Conservation received 181,252ha of native forest, and the allocation to production was 120,873ha. While this may seem like a good bargain for conservation, primarily the forests allocated to production were lowland forests, whereas the areas allocated to conservation - although including some of excellent areas of lowland forest - were mostly located at higher altitudes (i.e. the reserves consisted of relatively small high value lowland areas combined with larger areas of adjacent mountain forest).

The Accord Document
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The Accord document comprised three general statements of purpose (recitals), followed by 13 covenants. The first recital declared that various groups had been consulted by the Crown; the second declared the establishment of reserves and the Paparoa National Park; and, the third (and most controversial) referred to the logging of native forests in the transition period. The 13 covenants defined the specific commitments made. The sections of the Accord that have been used by Timberlands to justify its logging of native forests include the Third Recital (which relates to the transitional unsustainable logging of rimu), the Fourth Covenant referring to the provision of indigenous timber in perpetuity, and the Ninth Covenant referring to a "sustained yield beech scheme."

The Buller Overcut Clause
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The Third Recital refers to a strategy that "provides for the allocation of sufficient indigenous production forest areas to make possible the maintenance, subject to competitive market forces, of the sawmilling industry on the West Coast at its current allowable level of cut until exotic species become available." A hand written addition to the previous sentence was scribbled on the Accord document after the conservationists had signed it (and which they never agreed to). It reads "...in adequate quantity, planned to be 2006 in Buller and between 1990 and 1995 in North Westland (except for Karamea for which adequate quantity is available at present level of allowable cut until at least 1994)." This add-on, never agreed to by conservationists, is the only basis for Timberlands’ claim to be able to continue the "Buller Overcut" involving the heavy logging of enormous quantities of rimu from the Charleston forests and those of the Buller Gorge until 2006.

An important principle contained within the West Coast Accord was that the heavy logging of rimu in the Buller was only a transitional arrangement and designed to keep a sawmilling industry going until sufficient pine came on-stream. There is currently sufficient pine available for the maintenance of the sawmilling industry, and yet the Government continues to allow Timberlands to transform our natural heritage into veneer.

Indigenous Timber
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The Fourth Covenant of the Accord states that "the indigenous forests [that were allocated to production] will be managed to allow a continuing supply of indigenous timber in perpetuity." However, it is the opinion of the Crown Law Office that the Crown’s obligations in that clause have been discharged.

The Beech Scheme Clause

The Ninth Covenant of the Accord stated that "a sustained yield beech scheme may proceed… and that the Crown will invite tenders as soon as possible." This has been the basis of Timberlands plans to launch a massive beech scheme involving over 80,000ha of forest. However, according to legal advice obtained by the Government, since tenders were indeed called for in 1987 but no suitable tenders were received, the government has fulfilled all it promised in the accord. There is no requirement to allow a beech scheme.

High Court Ruling
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A case was taken to the High Court in 1992 by West Coast Resource Interests (comprising of the West Coast Regional and District Councils together with local sawmilling interests) charging the Timberlands (i.e. the Government) with a breach of the Accord and therefore a breach of contract. Timberlands was logging rimu in the Buller but awarded their rimu sawmilling contract to Westco Lagan Ltd., the owners of the Ruatapu Mill (located south of Hokitika). This had angered sawmillers in the Buller whose mill was forced to close.

The resulting decision in 1995 concluded that while the Accord was a contract, the Crown (i.e. Timberlands) was not in breach for sending its Buller rimu to Hokitika. Secondly, and more importantly for conservation, Justice Greig concluded that:

The Accord provided no contractual obligation by the Crown to 1. allow the felling of rimu in the Buller till the year 2006, or 2. provide for a beech scheme.

The requirement to allow the heavy logging of rimu in the Buller was an obligation only while there was insufficient pine to substitute for the rimu being logged in the Buller. As soon as there was sufficient pine available to meet this requirement, any rights to the logging of rimu in the Buller expired. In 1997 the available volume of pine in state owned West Coast pine forests doubled from 134,000 cubic meters to 267,000 cubic meters. This is more than enough to sustain West Coast mills at levels agreed in the Accord. Meanwhile, Timberlands has been exporting up to half of its pines to mills off the Coast. Timberlands is also claiming that it needs to wait till their pines are older in order to generate the highest commercial benefit. But the Accord did not provide for this, which means that by continuing to harvest rimu in the Buller Overcut, Timberlands is in fact in breach of the Accord.

The contractual requirement in relation to a beech scheme was to invite tenders. That has been fulfilled. As such, the Governments obligations under the West Coast Accord in relation to all native logging have been accomplished. The Court of Appeal confirmed this in a decision in 1997. Similar arguments apply to Timberlands logging around Okarito lagoon in south Westland. The Government has no further obligations to allow native forest logging under the West Coast Accord.

While this is the legal situation, we acknowledge that West Coast local interests feel that the Accord promised them more. Native Forest Action supports the development of alternative development plans to support this region (see Information Series No. 3).

STILL, the only thing that stands in the way of conserving the publicly owned lowland native forests on the West Coast is Government policy.

Native Forest Action is working to persuade the Government to change its policy
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Chapter 3

Conservation And West Coast Jobs

How employment and conservation can co-exist on the West Coast

Conservation vs Jobs
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Conservation has often been blamed for unemployment on the West Coast. But an understanding of the history of development on the Coast will soon show that there is another, more important cause. It is the result of decades of exploitation of local resources and labour by outside interests. Timberlands represents another example of this exploitation which is why getting rid of Timberlands would be good for both West Coast employment and our native forests.

A key question often asked of conservationists is: "what about jobs?" The protection of our natural heritage invariably involves the removal of resources from extractive industries. This can result in the loss of jobs for those involved in such industries in an era when secure employment is a thing of the past. But it does not have to be this way. A sustainable future is one where both development and conservation can co-exist, but this will ultimately depend on what kind of development we have.

For many West Coasters conservation means unemployment and hardship. To lose a job in the timber industry has a great impact on the life of a timber worker. If conservation contributes to social injustices it wont contribute to a sustainable future. This is because it will not be supported by local people who also deserve a voice in a democracy. If, on the other hand, environmentalists include the social and economic interests of local people in their campaigns there will be more support for environmental protection in the long run. Conservation is not about people vs nature, but about our relationships between each other and our ecological surroundings. This is why conservationists need to take the social and economic dimension seriously.

The West Coast is the principle focus of Native Forest Actions current campaign. This landscape has a history of social struggle and environmental exploitation. If we take a look at this history we discover that both the forests and the people have been exploited. The economic woes of the West Coast have not been caused by conservation, but by certain styles of economic development. Saving the forests on the West Coast is part of a process of re-shaping regional development into a form that puts people and nature first equal above profits. See Timberlands Pine

West Coast Development
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The West Coast economy has been depressed for many decades. This relates to the character of development on the West Coast since the late 19th century. From the time of European settlement, the West Coast has been used for the extraction and export of relatively cheap raw materials for consumption in other regions and countries. This has also meant that profits generated from the exploitation of West Coast resources and labour tended to be made elsewhere, and as such, were to be unavailable for reinvestment in local development.

As early as 1959 a Government study concluded that little of the wealth generated on the West Coast remained in the region, which was a major factor behind its marginal economic status.

History of Exploitation
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An economy based on the extraction and export of raw materials by companies owned in other regions is most often found in the Third World. This pattern is reinforced by other factors including: a balance of trade that is favourable to its trading partners; low levels of investment capital; a reliance on imports of manufactured products; low levels of local manufacturing; high unemployment; higher mortality rates; low levels of employment qualifications; and, a high degree of dependence on external economies.

If we were to remove national boundaries, the character of the West Coast economy would be more easily recognised as a resource colony of a similar character to the economies of developing nations. By the early 1970s the Government saw the West Coast as a priority area for regional development assistance (aid) and between 1973 and 1986 it received 11% of regional development state spending, which was far higher than its proportion of the national population.

The central government development assistance given to the West Coast was not very different from development aid given to Pacific island nations. And the reasons are largely the same: these economies were set up during the colonial era as a source of cheap raw materials. That relationship has not changed and this is why there is so much deforestation and unemployment in countries like Fiji and on the West Coast.

Economic Restructuring
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The economic troubles of the West Coast did not decline, but got worse in recent years. The West Coast economy was hit particularly badly by state and private sector restructuring that began in the late 1980s. With the passing of the State Owned Enterprises Act (1986) and establishment of the Department of Conservation (1987) the West Coast was poised on the brink of major job losses as resources were reshuffled.

Until 1987 a high proportion of West Coast jobs were in the public service. As a result of restructuring in the late 1980s - including the forest service - state sector job numbers dropped between March and April 1987 from 2,371 to 1,497 (over 5% of the regions full time work force lost their jobs). Job numbers dropped further by 1991 to 917. These job losses (which were not restricted to forestry) also affected those industries that relied on providing goods and services to employed people.

In the late 1980s the Government phased out the regional development assistance which had helped the West Coast economy survive. This aid had largely been used by businesses that came from elsewhere to exploit subsidies whilst utilising the local resource base and labour pool. Partnerships had to be struck between foreign "investors" and local elites. But when the subsidies dried up the foreign "investors" pulled the plug and departed to other parts of the world where the climate for profit was better.

For example, PDL closed its electrical goods factory in Westport in 1988 because tariffs (designed to protect NZ manufacturing) had been removed. Lane Walker Rudkin closed its garment factories in Greymouth, Reefton, and Westport in 1994 and headed for the tax free zones and low wage costs of Fiji.

In the 18 months to December 1987 the regional unemployment rate rose from 6.7% to 12.8%. This had risen by 1991 to 13.9% - one of the highest rates of unemployment per capita in the country. The number of those gainfully employed declined by a further 7.6% between 1991 and 1996. This all had a great impact on West Coast communities which also witnessed a series of reductions in social services as hospital wards, post offices and banks closed. By 1991 65% of the population over the age of 15 were receiving a benefit.

Regional Development
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If conservationists fail to understand the very real hardships that have been suffered by many people on the West Coast they will continue to be seen as the enemy by some West Coasters. But this conflict between local people and environmentalists is unnecessary and much of it appears to be being fuelled by Timberlands out of self interest. Resolving it, however, depends on the ability of conservationists and local employment seekers to learn from each other and from history.

The restructuring of the national economy over the last ten years has caused far more unemployment on the West Coast than conservation. This restructuring has also fostered an economic environment that makes it easy for enterprises like Timberlands to squander the local forest resources for little local or national gain (see Information Series No. 4 for details of Timberlands economic performance).

Native Forest Action is critical of this restructuring and supports changes in strategic development planning for the West Coast economy. This means changes in central government regional development policy to enable the West Coast economy to emerge from its disadvantaged condition.

An immediate issue is loss of control of local pine resources. Theres a lot of profit for Timberlands in native logging, but for the West Coasters the long term jobs are in pine forests. There are already 100s of jobs in exotic forestry - with production due to double in the near future - compared to a handful of jobs in native logging. From a West Coast perspective, the key West Coast Accord promise under threat from the Government is that the state pines, under Timberlands control, should be available to maintain the long term forestry industry. Already more West Coast jobs are lost from Timberlands selling pines off the Coast than come from the whole native industry - and many more are under threat if Timberlands is privatised.

A positive step would be to:-

  1. Wind up Timberlands immediately
  2. Transfer the control over state owned exotic forests to a trust controlled by West Coast local authorities (or some other body that has a genuine public interest in the well being of the West Coast people).
  3. Place all of the publicly owned native forests into reserves

This exchange (i.e. development assistance for conservation) would be easily justified on the grounds that the West Coast community is the guardian of our nations most magnificent lowland forests.

Another good option, building on successful experiences in South Westland and Hokitika, is Government grants for building on successful experiences in South Westland and Hokitika, is Government tourist development to allow locals to embrace and gain the benefits of the West Coasts natural riches.
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Chapter 5

Native Forest Action

West Coast jobs – facts and fallacies

Where is the future for permanent jobs on the West Coast? Just how many jobs are tied up in native forest logging anyway? Read on…

Jobs and Conservation

Some people are concerned that protecting more native forest would mean large job losses. The facts suggest otherwise:

The number of on-the-ground local jobs depending on ongoing rimu logging (excluding the overcut which is planned to finish in 18 months) is less than eight. There should be no cartage jobs affected if the indigenous logging is stopped. As for local milling jobs, Grant Carruthers, managing director of Westco Lagan, the largest mill on the Coast, was reported in the Westport News in May 1999 as saying that the mill can switch entirely to pine and other exotics without any problems.

Timberlands West Coast claims that its Beech Scheme will create as many as (reports vary) 200 to 350 jobs. In reality, the company started to log beech in commercial quantities in mid 1998 and no new jobs have been publicly announced. Claims to create phantom future jobs are easy claims to make and are not backed by any evidence that they will happen.

The main jobs that will be lost if logging rimu and beech stops in the region will be in the top-heavy management and public relations areas of Timberlands. Timberlands employs a relatively large number of managers compared to other forestry companies. One forestry expert has described Timberlands’ current managerial structure as "an embarrassment to the SOE model" and an "utterly irrational organisation that has to be restructured". It is the managerial structure that is soaking up Timberlands’ profits and part of the reason why the company has not returned any dividend from its lucrative indigenous logging operations to the Government (i.e. the taxpayer) in its nine years of operations.

There have been large job losses on the West Coast in the last 15 years. Between 1987 and 1991 restructuring of the state sector led a drop in state jobs from 2,371 to 917. Other jobs were lost in private sector restructuring after the removal of regional development grants and the loss of trade tariffs for manufacturing.

Currently, agriculture, forestry and fishing combined supply about 15% of West Coast jobs. Invest in the West, a promotional brochure profiling West Coast industry in May 1999, points to tourism as the region’s future. Tourism "now forms the largest economic sector on the West Coast". "Recent employment figures also reflect the success of the tourism industry. For the year ending March 1998 employment grew 3.3% on the Coast… The growing success of tourism is reflected in the population figures of Westland. South Westland’s population is developing at twice the rate of the rest of the region. Here tourism ventures are flourishing to such an extent that there is sometimes difficulty in finding enough employees." (p.2)

The future of tourism on the West Coast relies on promoting the ecological value of our native forests.

Conservationists do not want to shut down forestry on the Coast

Timberlands supporters claim that conservationists want to shut down the entire forest industry on the West Coast. The facts prove otherwise:

Most of the West Coast forest industry is in exotic forestry. Conservationists do not want to shut this industry down. Indeed NFA is promoting the transferral of the West Coast state owned exotic forests to local government control and ownership. This proposal was first suggested by West Coast mayors. NFA is supporting this locally grown proposal.

Conservationists acknowledge that any loss of employment from the ending of native logging should be offset by compensation that would satisfy the social and economic aims of the West Coast Accord. This is why NFA is calling for a Regional Development package for the West Coast that would adequately compensate for the ending of the native component of State forestry on the West Coast.

The West Coast Accord

It is commonly claimed by Timberlands supporters that conservationists are reneging on the West Coast Accord.

In fact, the heavy logging of rimu in the Buller is supported in the Accord only for that period while there were insufficient volumes of exotic timber to satisfy the local demand for timber in West Coast mills. Currently, Timberlands is logging rimu in the Buller in breach of the West Coast Accord because there are now sufficient volumes of pine capable of satisfying the local demand for timber in West Coast mills (see NFA Information Series No. 2).

Timberlands is doing two things to obscure this fact: 1. Timberlands is sending over half its pine logs off the Coast for milling; and 2. Timberlands is leaving its pines in the ground rather than harvesting them on the basis of "commercial preference".

Outsiders are not telling locals what to do

Timberlands supporters commonly claim that conservationists are not local people, and that "outsiders" are trying to tell West Coasters what to do with their own resources.

In fact, there are many West Coast residents who are opposed to the logging of native forests. For example, in February 1999 Native Forest Action gathered over 600 signatures in Westport on our petition calling for an ending of native logging on the West Coast in exchange for a regional development package.

This means that there is a significant constituency on the West Coast that does not support the status quo and who are willing to see some significant changes in the management of the West Coast native forests.

Moreover, the native forests in question are not owned by West Coast people alone. They are State owned and therefore owned by all New Zealanders, who deserve to have a say in their natural heritage.

Regional development proposals put forward by NFA do not amount to telling West Coasters what to do. The proposals have come from West Coast people themselves.

NFA’s Regional Development Policy includes: 1. Transferring the ownership of state pines to local government; 2. Transferring the royalty on coal exports from central Government to West Coast local government as a way of propping up rate revenues; 3. State funding for exotic forestry plantings in the Coastal Buller; 4. State funding assistance for sewage schemes in Westport, Reefton and Greymouth.

Native Forest Action believes that conservation needs to be fair and socially just for it to be enduring. We recognise that the West Coast region has suffered from many hardships for many decades.

If conservationists want to save public forests in that region they need to support the West Coast people in their legitimate quest for employment and development. NFA invites other New Zealanders to support its Policy.

Most of the West Coast already protected?

Many supporters of Timberlands claim that the majority of the West Coast region is already protected and therefore the relatively small amount of native forest being logged "sustainably" by Timberlands ought to remain available for logging.

In fact the vast majority of the West Coast conservation estate is in high altitude zones and includes large areas of alpine habitat including rock, ice and snow. Lowland forest is very different from high altitude forest in its plant and animal species, diversity, soil, and geology. A very large proportion of what remains on the West Coast of lowland native forest is under the control of Timberlands. Such forest no longer exists in other regions or if it is does it is very rare.

We could draw an analogy from the Auckland Islands and the Hooker’s Sealion colony. If we lived in Auckland Islands we could claim that Hooker’s Sealions were so common locally that we should be able to kill them "sustainably." However, the Hooker’s Sealion is the world’s rarest and the Enderby Island colony is the only one of its kind. Therefore we are justified to ask that it be entirely protected.

The same kind of situation exists on the West Coast. These are not common forests – they are lowland forests and we have very few of them left in this country.

Why the West Coast still has lowland native forest

Supporters of Timberlands enjoy claiming that the West Coast people are better conservationists than other New Zealanders and this is why they still have native forests.

There are a number of reasons why there are still some lowland native forests left on the West Coast. They do not prove that West Coasters are better conservationists than any one else.

Firstly, the West Coast is extremely mountainous. During colonial settlement and land clearance, high altitude areas were not favourable for pastoral farming due to inaccessibility, poor climate and poor soil conditions. Because of this, many high altitude habitats survived and became the basis of our current national parks system. There are more of these forests on the West Coast simply because there were more high altitude forested landscapes to start with.

Secondly, the lowland forests of the West Coast have been plundered along with others in the rest of New Zealand. But because of the poorer conditions for pastoral farming the West Coast did not have as much pressure from land clearing interests as other regions with better farming landscapes (e.g. the Nelson area).

Thirdly, in dryer regions it was much easier to clear forest, as forests would more easily burn. In other regions (especially in the North Island) forests were cleared by settlers and burned to make way for pasture. The West Coast is very wet and the forests were (and are) far more resilient to fire and clearance.

Fourthly, most of the highly profitable lowland alluvial podocarp forests on the West Coast were cleared long ago.

The last remnants of heavily wooded lowland forest were clear felled until recently (e.g. Kanaeri, Wanganui, and Ianthe forests), with the exception of Okarito and Saltwater forests which are currently being logged by Timberlands. If beech forest was as commercially valuable as rimu forest there would be none left now. Attempts to log beech profitably have largely failed over the last 100 years. But now Timberlands is moving its attention to the beech forests because there’s little else left.

The time is right for ending the logging of publicly owned native forest for ever. Please help our nation enter the 21st Century with pride.


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