A look at some of the facts behind this issue that arouses strong emotions.
Sustainable logging of native timbers is an issue that arouses strong
emotions. In these articles I 'm going to write about only what I
are established facts and what I myself have seen.
Part 1 will look briefly at the background to West Coast forestry and
is meant by sustainable management; Part 2 at the management of beech
timber; Part 3 at the research Timberlands is conducting into the
of its forests and the measures it is taking to protect the native
and the invertebrates of the forests; Parts 4 and 5 responses to the
articles from Native Forest Action and the Maruia Society.
Some background information
What drew people to the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand?
The early explorers like Brunner suffered hardship reaching the area
with the difficulties of transport to the area and the lack of easily
developed farmland it attracted few settlers until gold was discovered
1863. This brought a huge influx of people and while some departed
richer sources of gold were found elsewhere others stayed to work in
timber industry or to farm the land as it was cleared.
The first commercial sawmill in the area was opened in 1865 in
Timber was in great demand and farmers were eager to clear land so the
timber industry grew rapidly.
At first silver pine and totara were the chosen timbers, but later the
demand changed to kahikatea and rimu, and these timbers were the
predominant product from the West Coast timber industry.
In 1919 the Government established the State Forest Service (later the
Zealand Forest Service) with the task of planting fast growing exotic
such as radiata pine to satisfy some of the demand for timber and slow
felling of the native forests. The first of these forests on the West
Coast was planted in 1928.
The timber industry was a large part of the West Coast economy, and
the reduction in the mining of coal it became even more important.
ventures were increasing, but the area depended heavily on the timber
industry for employment.
Concern and protest from environmental groups
As the New Zealand public became more aware of conservation issues
the native forests became a matter of concern and protest.
The West Coast Accord
The Government took action to try to resolve the conflicts among the
environmental groups, the local authorities and the timber industry,
these groups signed an agreement known as the West Coast Accord.
Aim of the Accord
The aim was to reduce the reliance of the timber industry on native
and to increase its reliance on the plantations of exotic timbers and
preserve a large area of forest in its untouched state.
Large forest areas to be placed under the Department of
Under the Accord:
78% of the West Coast's forests was placed under permanent protection
became the responsibility of DOC.
8% was set aside for carefully managed timber production.
15% remained in private ownership.
The Kahurangi National Park was established from the land placed under
care of DOC.
Stability in the timber industry
To ensure stability in the industry during the period of change under
Accord a sufficient area of Crown forest was to be allocated for
purposes in Buller, North Westland and South Westland at the 1986
allowable cut until exotics became available in adequate quantity in
The area of indigenous forest allocated should have sufficient beech
beech/podocarp forest to establish a sustained yield beech scheme
initially a minimum of 150,000 m3/an, log production).
Dates were set for the quantity of timber that could be taken from
locality and for the cessation of unsustainable logging in that
Locality Average Annual Volume
North and South Westland 140,000m3 December
The bulk of the unsustainable harvesting ceased in December 1994.
Privately owned forests
These can be felled to increase pasture area on a farm if the wood is
sold, or the forests can be logged and the wood sold if the owners
presented a sustainable management plan and it has been approved.
Changes in Government forestry management
In 1987 the New Zealand Forest Service was replaced by a state-owned
enterprise called the New Zealand Forestry Corporation with a
New Zealand Timberlands Ltd, to manage all state-owned production
The Government then sold many of the forests it had placed in the
of New Zealand Timberlands Ltd, but because of the special management
needed for the West Coast Forests in 1990 it retained these and
new state-owned enterprise (SOE), Timberlands West Coast Ltd, (TWC).
The mission statement of the company is:
Timberlands West Coast Ltd is a profitable forestry business with
innnovative and environmentally sensitive management, a customer focus
cognisant of its role in the West Coast community.
To fulfil its mission it has developed new methods of sustainable
management which aim to take no more timber from the forest than its
can replace in the same time span.
It funds extensive research into silviculture and the ecology of the
It seeks to sustain the West Coast community by providing employment
sizable workforce on the West Coast, an area which has a serious
Change to the conditions of the Accord
Despite having agreed to the Accord some environmentalists mounted
pressure for the unsustainable logging in the Buller to cease before
agreed date. The Government gave way to the pressure and at the end
1998 decreed that it cease at the end of 2000. This will create
considerable difficulties for the timber industry as the cut of the
forest is not due to increase sufficiently to compensate for the
rimu volume until 2003. To harvest it earlier at twenty six years
reduce the quantity of high value wood which is critical to the West
timber industry given its existing infrastructure and isolation from
markets. The bringing forward of the exotic cut will also result in a
serious dip in log supply in approximately fifteen years time.
What is meant by sustainable management?
Sustainable management maintains the essential functioning of the
forest ecosystems while allowing timber production by:
- researching extensively the forest's values and maintaining them
- copying what happens naturally in the forest
- harvesting with technology that makes minimal impact
- harvesting no more timber than will be replaced by natural growth.
Public consultation an important factor
Throughout the development of sustainable management TWC has
with the local communities, the regional authorities and conservation
other community groups, establishing a contact person and providing a
trip for representatives.
Concentrated research essential
TWC focuses research and gathers information on diverse aspects of the
forest and the logging - wildlife, silviculture, growth measurements,
to regeneration, low impact roading, timber selection.
Because TWC has not been volume driven it has had the luxury of time
the extensive and intensive research and has learnt valuable lessons
have elicited high praise from forestry experts visiting from around
world, in particular delegates to the 5th International Forest
Roundtable held in Rotorua in November 1998.
They have made a major transition from 1990 when all harvesting was
skidders and haulers to the present system of helicopter removal of
selected trees that have been felled.