Native Forest Logging Decision


Please circulate this as widely as possible.

Despite the New Zealand Forest Accord, under which industry and many environmental NGOs agreed a few years ago that native forest logging should end in New Zealand, logging continues to threaten native forests. In the near future New Zealand's Government will make a crucial decision whether or not to end all logging of publicly-owned native forests.

From: Nicky Hager 31 July 1997
Native Forest Action, PO Box 11964 Wellington, New Zealand
fax 644 - 3845821

In the near future New Zealand's Coalition Government will make a crucial decision whether or not to end all logging of publicly-owned native forests. For the last five months a large group of environmentalists have sat in trees and protested in a natural rainforest area on the West Coast of our South Island to alert the public to the worst and largest-scale logging left in New Zealand. The government has responded quite positively to this campaign and our group, Native Forest Action, is optimistic that a decision to stop at least some of the logging is possible.

The big question is whether our government will accept the argument that it should settle the controversy over native forest logging once and for all by reserving all the remaining publicly-owned native forests (not only the forests where the campaign is currently focussed). This is what we are pushing for and there is a reasonable chance it will happen. We believe this would not only be good in New Zealand, but would also set a useful precedent for other countries. Any extra pressure on our government to make a pro-conservation decision, at this time when pro-logging interests are lobbying intensely, would be very helpful.

Our government is very sensitive about its environmental image and particularly about how it is perceived internationally. A country which promotes itself as a clean and green tourist destination is naturally very sensitive to it being revealed that a state-owned logging company is being allowed to log important remnant areas of native forest.

What You Can Do

Please send messages to the key government ministers letting them know that there is international interest in the decision on the West Coast forests and urging them to make a bold move for rainforest conservation. Assure them that the decision would earn international praise and that it could only help New Zealand economically through tourism. In the midst of international calls to stop rainforest felling, it is entirely appropriate for them to decide the era of logging what remains of our rainforests is over.

The key politicians are:

Prime Minister Jim Bolger fax 644 - 4737045

Minister of Forestry Dr Lockwood Smith fax 4712918

Minister of Conservation Dr Nick Smith fax 644 - 4736118

Minister for the Environment Simon Upton fax 644 - 4712913

A letter to the Prime Minister, copied to the other three, would be most helpful. (Please don't mention the presumed timing of their decision, which is secret.)


The forests in contention are pure podocarp, podocarp-beech and pure beech forests on the West Coast of the South Island. This region has far more lowland forest left than other regions of New Zealand but even here, following the pattern elsewhere, many of the lowland areas which can be used for farming, settlement and plantation forestry have already been cleared of their original forest. The logging we are trying to stop is being done by a state-owned company, Timberlands West Coast Ltd. This company has control of 128,000 hectares of native forest, which amounts to roughly half of the rare lowland forest left in this region.

There are three components to Timberlands' native forest logging operations:

* Buller: Well over half of Timberlands' logging (mostly rimu trees) occurs in Buller, ripping through magnificent forest near the northern boundary of the Paparoa National Park. This is prime habitat for rare birds including the great spotted kiwi, which can be heard calling all night in the logging and protest areas. This is where several months of protest has brought the whole issue to a head.

* Beech logging scheme: Timberlands will shortly seek government approval to start a huge new logging operation based on beech forest. It would involve several times as many trees being logged and operations over an area 14 times larger than that being fought over in the Buller. There is no industry or jobs reliant setting up a beech scheme, nor legal obligations to do so. Less damaged by introduced animals than the North Island forests, these beech forests are a priority for mainland endangered animal habitat and biodiversity.

* Okarito: Of all Timberland's logging, the most offensive is the rimu logging in the North Okarito and Saltwater Forests in South Westland. Okarito, where most of the logging occurs, is an internationally famous name and forests around the lagoon and white heron colony logically belong in the Westland National Park. It is the finest natural terrace-lagoon system on the West Coast and to use it, of all places, for logging is a crime.

Timberlands is attempting sustained yield logging in the beech forests and at Okarito. We argue that in a country where over 99% of timber comes from plantations and where only remnants of our native forests are left, there is no justification for continuing any logging. While their logging techniques are certainly better than those in many countries, they still reduce the forests' ecological richness and diversity. The company employs aggressive anti-environmental tactics against groups like ours and so there is little public sympathy for it despite their promotion of themselves as 'sustainable' loggers.

The last sawmill cutting native timber is able to transfer to cutting plantation pines and a Court of Appeal decision in June concluded there were no legal impediments to ending the logging, so there is no good reason for the government not to act boldly to preserve our temperate rainforest remnants.