Native logging back on West Coast’s agenda
A West Coast council is considering harvesting native trees on council-owned land.
The Grey District Council is seeking public submissions on allowing ‘‘sustainable harvesting’’ of such indigenous forests.
Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said any logging would have a ‘‘very strong focus on sustainability and environmental accountability’’.
The council had its eye on three blocks – one near Blackball, another podocarp block near Lake Brunner and a 720ha block that runs from Dobson to the Arnold Valley. They have up to now been untouched.
In May 2000, the Government agreed to pay $120 million in compensation to assist the West Coast economy when it ended native timber logging.
Kokshoorn had protested against the end of native logging on the West Coast in 1999.
‘‘We know sustainable native logging works. We had it with Timberlands in 1999, but the Government decided to end it,’’ he said.
‘‘It was a sustainable programme of cutting down trees at the end of their life cycle. Instead of letting them fall and rot, they would be removed by helicopter and replaced by younger trees coming up through the large canopy. You don’t even need to replant them.’’
Kokshoorn said he recognised native forests were a ‘‘jewel in the crown’’ for the West Coast tourism industry.
Companies, including beekeepers, had approached the council for access to forests.
‘‘It’s about extracting more productivity from council-owned land, so we have called for submissions. There are other ideas we are putting forward.
‘‘We could swap really nice native blocks with DOC and they could give us something in return of equivalent value like land south of Punakaiki which doesn’t have much conservation value but we could use to build accommodation and other services for the tourism industry there where there is a shortage of council or privately owned land.’’
New Zealand Sustainable Forest Products Ltd had approached the council with a registration of interest to harvest one forest in exchange for council being paid a percentage of the yield.
Kokshoorn said the idea was controversial, so council had decided to ask the public for its views.
‘‘It has to still go through legislative change and some blocks have restrictions on them by [the] Government,’’ he said.
Forest and Bird spokeswoman Jen Miller said she was concerned about the lack of information in the council consultation document.
‘‘There was no indication of what the forests they are talking about and no cost benefit analysis. People may think it’s a good thing because it will give economic return to the community, but we have no idea what the cost would be to biodiversity and flood protection,’’ she said.
‘‘It seems insane to consider deforestation for financial gain. I thought we had won that battle.’’
Parliament passed legislation in 2014 to allow native timber damaged by Cyclone Ita to be removed from conservation land.
Reefton-based New Zealand Sustainable Forest Products Ltd were allowed to take 600 cubic metres of rimu and 100 cubic metres of red beech from the Grey Valley area east of Greymouth.
The company has been approached for comment.
Wind-blown trees inland from Punakaiki after Cyclone Ita damaged hundreds of hectares of native forest on the West Coast.