20 Jun 2014

Law allows sale of West Coast timber

3:57 pm on 20 June 2014

A new law will allow thousands of hectares of windblown native timber on the West Coast to be harvested.

In April this year, Cyclone Ita swept through the region, felling 20,000 hectares of native forest.

Nick Smith.

Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Conservation Minister Nick Smith says the West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill will be passed next week.

The bill specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa.

Dr Smith said the legislation is necessary because the current Conservation Act doesn't allow timber recovery in extreme events.

A pragmatic approach is required, he said, and the new law would provide a financial return to DoC.

"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."

Authorisations are only to be issued where DoC's director-general is satisfied the proposed method of removing the timber is safe for workers and the public and minimises environmental impacts.

The recovery of timber is limited until 1 July 2019 when the bill expires. All revenue from royalties will go to DoC.

Timber processor welcomes DoC move

A West Coast timber processor says harvesting windblown trees will be a win for conservation and the native timber industry.

Jon Dronfield of New Zealand Sustainable Forest Products says the royalties the Department of Conservation will get from the milling will give strong support to conservation.

"It's been shown here that conservation needs more funding than it's able to get. It'll be great to see some of these revenues returned to predator control."

Mr Dronfield says at market value, one cubic metre of rimu will fund seven or eight hectares of pest control.

He estimates 10 or 20 thousand cubic metres of timber will be processed.