Government to Consult With Maori Over Indigenous Logging

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

The Government is to begin consultations with Maori over a proposal to end the unsustainable logging of indigenous forests on lands granted to Maori under the South Island Landless Maoris Act 1906 (SILMA), Forestry Minister Lockwood Smith announced today.

"The Government wishes 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," Dr Smith said.

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

A negotiating team, appointed by Dr Smith in consultation with Maori Affairs Minister Tau Henare, will begin initial talks with representatives of SILMA forest owners next week and will report back to the Government next month on the outcome of the initial discussions. The negotiating team will be led by Dr Brent Wheeler, an independent consultant on economic, environmental and Treaty of Waitangi issues. The team includes representatives from the Ministry of Forestry, Department of Conservation and Treasury.

Matters on which the Government is seeking feedback from the SILMA forest owners include the time required to move to sustainable forest management, and the possibility of protecting some of the forests for conservation purposes.

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 75,000 hectares - just 1% of New Zealand's native forestry - may currently be managed unsustainably, by SILMA forest owners and Timberlands West Coast Ltd.

Dr Smith said the Government was still considering proposals relating to Timberlands West Coast Ltd and would make a separate announcement on these proposals in due course.