Who’s putting jobs and people first?

The government is to introduce special legislation to enable the recovery of high value native timber blown over in Cyclone Ita on West Coast public conservation land, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“We need to take a pragmatic approach and enable the timber to be recovered where it can be done so safely and with minimal environmental impact. This initiative will provide welcome jobs and economic opportunities for the West Coast at a difficult time, and will provide a financial return to DOC that can be reinvested in conservation work,” Dr Smith says.

Cyclone Ita hit the West Coast on 17 April this year and caused the worst windfall damage in generations, felling an estimated 20,000 hectares of forest and causing significant damage to a further 200,000 hectares.

The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa. Authorisations are only to be issued where the Department’s Director-General is satisfied the proposed method of removing the timber is safe for workers and the public, and minimises environmental impacts. The recovery of timber is limited until 1 July 2019 when the Bill expires. All revenue from royalties will go to the Department of Conservation.

“A law change is needed because the current Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery in this sort of extreme event. The Bill will be introduced and passed by Parliament next week under urgency. This is necessary because the large volumes of beech timber will soon deteriorate with sap stain and borer. I am grateful for the common sense support from the United Future and Māori Parties that are enabling Parliament to quickly resolve this issue.

“It is estimated that several million cubic metres of beech, rimu, matai, totara and miro trees have been felled. Stumpage prices for rimu are $250 per cubic metre, and $60 per cubic metre for beech. It is not possible to estimate the volume and value of timber to be extracted because the safety and environmental constraints may require high cost options like the use of helicopters. This law change will enable the detailed work to be done by operators on recovery proposals so as to determine where recovery is viable and safe.

“It may be appropriate to consider a permanent change to the Conservation Act to enable windblown timber in these sorts of situations to be recovered in future, but I am reluctant to do so with urgent legislation of this sort. The Department of Conservation will be commissioning research on the effects on forest regrowth and ecology by comparing similar windblown areas where timber has and has not been recovered to help make a long-term policy decision on this issue.

“It is a tragedy that so much forest has been wrecked by Cyclone Ita but no good purpose is served by leaving it all to rot. The wood will displace some of the $65 million of tropical hardwoods we import each year and give New Zealanders access to our own beautiful native timbers,” Dr Smith concluded.

The move has the support of the Maori Party:

The Māori Party is thrilled that urgent legislation is to be passed by Parliament to allow for the recovery of native timber that has fallen onto West Coast public conservation land as a result of Cyclone Ita. Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell joined Dr Nick Smith on the West Coast today to make the special announcement.

“We see this as a great opportunity for the West Coast at a time where the community has had to bear the brunt of the storm. This legislation will open up long-term employment and commercial opportunities for the community and I am proud to be part of today’s announcement,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

“The Māori Party support this initiative because we see it as a way for the West Coast to take a silver lining from the storm that hit their community on April 17 this year and caused the most devastating windfall damage in decades.”

“Had we not supported the legislation, the timber would have deteriorated and lost its commercial value. In particular, beech sapwood must be recovered within a month before sap stain fungi and beech borer begin to destroy the value of the timber, which is why there is a need for urgency. The felled rimu can be recoverable for up to five years, providing opportunities for long-term employment,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

“Of course, the safety of the workers will be of paramount importance and authorisations to remove timber will require that the operators provide health and safety plans to show their removal methods would be safe for both the workers and the public. The legislation also provides for public exclusion from areas while timber recovery operations are taking place for their own protection.”

“Ngāi Tahu has expressed their support in principle for the opportunities presented by the legislation and we will support their preference for opportunities for the harvesting of the wind-blown timber and its proceeds to be reinvested into the West Coast community. We will also seek to ensure that the recovery is undertaken in a manner that respects and addresses any environmental and cultural matters of concern that the iwi may have.”

“While we are sad to see that so much native timber has been blown over by Cyclone Ita, we are delighted that Ngāi Tahu and the rest of the West Coast community will benefit from the passing of this legislation,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says the timber recovery is the logical response:

. . . “It is very unfortunate so many trees were blown down in this storm but there is just no benefit in leaving the timber to rot” said Mr Dunne.

Parliament will consider urgent, special legislation to enable the recovery of the high value native timber.

UnitedFuture will support The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill which confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, National Parks, Ecological Areas and the White Heron colony.

“This timber recovery plan is the common sense, practical, and logical response to a natural process.

“I am satisfied by the environmental protections and health and safety regulations to which operators will be subject when the timber is removed.

“This will ensure that the West Coast’s unique environment will be protected” said Mr Dunne.

“New Zealand’s hardwood is some of the most beautiful in the world and I am pleased Parliament will enable New Zealanders to access it rather than leaving it to rot” he said.

Former Former Westland Mayor and now National Party candidate Maureen Pugh approached the Minister and asked that permission be given for logging:

. . . “It just seems like a very practical solution to an event that’s happened,” says Ms Pugh.

She says the logs, which are a mixture of rimu, totara and beech, could be worth up to $50,000 each. . . .

The proposal’s being welcomed on the coast – Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says it makes sense as it has the potential to create money. . . .

this is a very good example of a candidate being proactive for the people who’s support she’s seeking.

Contrast that with the Green Party which doesn’t attempt to win electorates and therefore doesn’t have to worry what’s best for the people in them:

 . . . the Greens say it would require a law change and they’d never support it.

“Generations of New Zealanders campaigned to protect West Coast forests – allowing trees to be taken from timber would completely cut across that,” says Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage. . . .

Nature dealt the trees the killing blow.

If they are left where they are they’ll rot.

There is a small window of opportunity to recover the fallen trees which will provide work and replace imported timber.

It will be done with safeguards for workers and the environment and all profits will go to the Department of Conservation to fund more conservation work.

But once more the Green Party will put politics and its own blinkered ideology before people and jobs.

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