Storm-blown native timber will be recovered

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 16:21 20/06/2014
MPs at Blue Duck Stream
Marion van Dijk
STORM DAMAGE: National Party candidate for West Coast-Tasman Maureen Pugh, left, Minister of Conservation Nick Smith, Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell and United Future party leader Peter Dunne at a site near Blue Duck Stream near Little Wanganui, Karamea

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Parliament will pass special legislation next week to allow the recovery of high-value native timber blown over by Cyclone Ita on the West Coast.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced the move today, saying it would provide jobs and economic opportunities for the West Coast and a financial return to the Department of Conservation (DOC) that it could reinvest in conservation work.

Cyclone Ita knocked over about 20,000 hectares of forest and significantly damaged another 200,000 hectares when it hit the West Coast on April 17.

The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill would allow the recovery of useable wood from public conservation land affected by Cyclone Ita, but would exclude World Heritage areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa.

''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,'' Smith said.

''The wood will displace some of the $65 million of tropical hardwoods we import each year.''

The Bill would be introduced and passed by Parliament under urgency next week to avoid letting the large volumes of beech timber deteriorate.

Smith said he was grateful for ''common sense support'' from United Future and the Maori party to ensure the issue would be resolved quickly.

''A law change is needed because the current Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery in this sort of extreme event.''

Authorisation for recovering timber would be given by DOC's director-general only when they were the proposal would be safe for workers and the public and would have minimal impact on the environment.

The Bill would expire on July 1, 2019, but DOC planned to commission research to help make a long-term policy decision on the issue, Smith said.

FOREST & BIRD CRITICAL OF BILL

Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said the idea made no economic sense.

"Flooding the market with large volumes of timber from the conservation estate will pose a direct threat to the established sustainable native timber industry."

He was concerned the windblown timber would be "incredibly dangerous" to recover, and said the logging industry in New Zealand already had a terrible safety record.

"It looks as though this scheme has little to do with creating jobs, but a lot to do with the politics of winning the West Coast seat in September's general election."

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