Milling community keen to recover timber

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 11:24 16/08/2014

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Sawmillers have their hands up to remove storm-damaged West Coast native timber but no-one knows who will be granted the right to do so.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is processing 14 applications to recover the trees under the West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill.

An estimated 20,000 hectares of West Coast native forest was seriously damaged by Cyclone Ita in April.

New Zealand Sustainable Forest Products (NZSFP) production manager Jon Dronfield said no-one knew what areas other applicants were interested in and whether those areas over-lapped.

He would not be "getting that excited" until the process was further along and said it was too early to "start talking about job creation at the moment".

Applications to become authorised operators are being assessed by DOC and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff and iwi representatives.

A DOC spokeswoman said further details could not be released until the applications had been assessed.

Applicants had to outline expected volumes and location of timber and their operation plans. They had to pay a $500 application fee with more expenses expected to be attached to the process including bonds, insurance and monitoring costs.

Authorised operators will pay stumpage fees to DOC at rates that have been estimated at $60 and $250 per cubic metre for beech and rimu respectively. Conservation Minister Nick Smith said those royalties would go toward West Coast conservation projects.

The timber recovery bill was passed under urgency in June, in part to allow harvest of beech before it was damaged by sap stain and borer.

Three of the four millers spoken to by The Press said they were interested in recovering only rimu, which was feasible up to five years after the storm event.

Only Dronfield said he was interested in recovering beech, which would be processed at NZSFP's Reefton mill.

Hokitika-based sawmiller Andy Grigg said he was just a "one-man- band" and had not yet applied to access the wind-blown timber.

He said there had been "a lot of interest from the milling community" in recovering the timber.

Westco Lagen director Dean Sweetman said the company had not applied to recover the storm- damaged timber but might at a later date.

Sawmill Direct manager Dave Hindman said he had applied to remove rimu in Westland.

The West Coast has 32 sawmills registered to mill indigenous timber, three of which were new this year.

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- The Press

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