Na­tive log­ging back on West Coast’s agenda

The Press - - News - JOANNE CAR­ROLL

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.

PHOTO: FAIRFAX NZ

Wind-blown trees in­land from Pu­nakaiki af­ter Cy­clone Ita dam­aged hun­dreds of hectares of na­tive for­est on the West Coast.

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