DOC wind-throw logs for sale

By Laura Mills

Parliament will be asked to pass urgent legislation to enable the recovery of native timber blown over in Cyclone Ita on West Coast public conservation land over the next five years, Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced today.
“This initiative will provide welcome jobs and economic opportunities for the West Coast at a difficult time, and will provide a financial return to DOC that can be reinvested in conservation work,” Dr Smith said.
Cyclone Ita hit on April 17 and caused the worst windfall damage in generations, felling an estimated 20,000ha of forest and causing significant damage to a further 200,000ha of forest.
The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve, at Whataroa.
Authorisations will only be issued where DOC is satisfied it will be safe for workers and the public, and minimises environmental impacts.
The recovery of timber is limited until July 1, 2019, when the bill expires. All revenue from royalties will go to DOC.
A law change is needed because the current Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery after an extreme event.
The bill will be introduced and passed by Parliament next week, before the beech, in particular, deteriorates with sap stain and borer.
Dr Smith said he had the backing of United Future and the Maori Party.
He said it was not possible to estimate the volume and value of timber to be extracted because the safety and environmental constraints may require high cost options such as the use of helicopters.
Dr Smith said it may be appropriate to consider a permanent change to the Conservation Act to enable windblown timber in these sorts of situations to be recovered in future, but he was reluctant to do so with urgent legislation. DOC would be commissioning research to help make a long-term policy decision on the issue.
National’s West Coast-Tasman candidate Maureen Pugh said that with the downturn in international coal and gold prices, the extra forestry and sawmilling work this decision “would be a welcome filler for jobs and economic activities on the West Coast”.
West Coast-Tasman MP Labour’s Damien O’Connor said he wanted to read the bill before deciding how he would vote, although he thought National would “just” have the numbers to get it through.
He said on the face of it, it seemed logical, and trying to reduce waste from the storm and create opportunities was sensible: “Any opportunities for our region at the moment are welcome.”
However, they had to be mindful not to flood the market, and squeeze out existing operators.
Specific companies that have already expressed interest are NZ Sustainable Forest Products Ltd, Andy Grigg (sawmiller), Dave Hindman (sawmiller/forester), and Westco Lagan for its Ruatapu sawmill.
Request for proposals on timber recovery of beech will be sought by public notice in early July.