Native Forest Action -

Urgent Update

Straight after the November 1999 election the new coalition government cancelled state owned enterprise Timberlands West Coast Ltd's beech logging scheme. On 15 May 2000 the government announced its decision regarding the remainder of logging of publicly owned native forests, including 'unsustainable' rimu logging in the Buller District of the West Coast (known as the 'Buller Overcut') and so-called 'sustainable' rimu logging in other West Coast forests, the most notable being North Okarito and Saltwater forests in South Westland.

The government announced that:

1. the Buller Overcut will stop at the end of 2000,

2. logging of all other publicly owned native forests will stop on 31 March 2002 (eight months before the next election),

3. it will give the West Coast $120m to assist with economic development (largely as compensation for ending the logging).


The Buller Overcut

The previous government had already adopted a policy of stopping the Buller Overcut at the end of 2000 knowing rimu supplies will be almost completely depleted well before then. Timberlands have also announced they will stop logging Orikaka Forest (the last forest containing large supplies of rimu in the Buller Overcut) by September 2000 'when the kiwi breeding season begins'. This is merely a PR exercise - great spotted kiwis (the only species in the area) actually begin breeding in July and Timberlands have been logging at a rate which suggests rimu supplies will be almost completely depleted by September 2000. Also, September marks the beginning of the rainy season, which inhibits logging activity - Timberlands have traditionally avoided logging during this season anyway.


Logging of other publicly owned native forests

Continued logging until March 2002 is being touted by government as a compromise which will allow the West Coast timber industry and furniture manufacturers to adjust and avoid job losses. The amount of rimu to be taken from the forests is limited, but will involve the removal of thousands of trees. The pro-logging lobby are claiming the decision will cause hundreds of job losses on the West Coast and thousands in the furniture manufacturing industry. This is simply not true. There is no reason why anyone should be out of a job because of the government's decision on this issue.


Conservationists dissappointed

Given the governing parties' pre-election promises to end all native logging on public land 'as soon as possible', Native Forest Action and other conservation groups are extremely dissappointed with the decision. While it does represent huge conservation gains, thousands more native trees will be felled and the decision provides pro-loggers with a platform from which to carry on lobbying aggressively for native logging to continue on public land. The government has handled the whole issue very poorly. With massive public support to end the logging immediately, it would have made much more sense to do so.


What now?

Native Forest Action is having urgent meetings with other conservation groups over the next few days to decide what to do now. Basically, we hope to minimise the damage caused by continued logging and maximise the conservation gains of the government's decision. We will update this page by the end of the week and let you know what you can do to help.