Consultation With Parties to the West Coast Accord

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

The Government will begin consultations with signatories to the West Coast Accord and other affected parties over a proposal to end the unsustainable logging of indigenous forests by Timberlands West Coast Ltd by 31 December 2000, Forestry Minister Lockwood Smith announced today.

The new date is six years earlier than that specified by the West Coast Accord which was signed in 1986 by former Environment Minister Phil Goff, the West Coast United Council (now the West Coast Regional Council, the Buller District Council, the Grey District Council and the Westland District Council), the Native Forest Action Council (now the Maruia Society), the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, the West Coast Timber Association, the Westland Timber Workers' Union, and the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.

The announcement implements a key forestry policy initiative included in the Coalition Agreement.

"The Government wants to find a way to end the remaining unsustainable logging of New Zealand's indigenous forests in order to protect our natural heritage and our international forestry reputation, and ensure a level playing field for our forestry industry," Dr Smith said.

"The proposed transition time will allow the local forestry industry to adjust to change, protecting jobs on the West Coast."

A consultation team, appointed by Dr Smith, will begin initial talks with parties to the accord this week and will report back to the Government by the end of June. The consultation team will comprise officials from the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Department of Conservation, the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit and Ministry for the Environment.

Timberlands West Coast Ltd also sustainably manages other forests under the Accord. The Government intends to bring these forests under Part IIIA of the Forests Act 1949 as soon as possible.

Should Timberlands West Coast Ltd wish to bring into production other forests which may be sustainably managed under the Accord, the public will have an opportunity to comment on any such plans.

New Zealand has 6.4 million hectares of native forest. Of that, 77% is in the conservation estate and protected in perpetuity. The vast majority of the remainder is already required to be sustainably managed under Part IIIA of the Forests Act.

Only 75,650 hectares - just 1% of New Zealand's native forestry - may currently be managed unsustainably, by SILMA forest owners (57,538 ha) and Timberlands West Coast Ltd (18,112 ha).

Today's announcement follows an announcement on 7 April that the Government was to consult with SILMA landowners on an end to unsustainable management of their forests.