My name is Dudley Arthur Franklin, and until I retired in 1996, I was employed as a scientist by the Forest Research Institute. For over 30 years a major part of my duties was to describe and map the indigenous forests of the South Island, and to carry out research into the management of indigenous forest for timber production. As a result I acquired a good working knowledge of all the lowland indigenous forest of the South Island which had a productive potential.
In 1974, as a result of major Forest Service investigations into the productive potential of the beech forests of Nelson, the West Coast, and western Southland, the Scientific Coordinating Committee for Beech Research was established, with the specific objective of ensuring that all research necessary for the successful implementation of potential beech management schemes, was being undertaken. A major function of the committee, was to ensure that an adequate network of scientific reserves was established and excluded from any logging proposals.
The composition of the Committee was as follows
Chair: Dr Cohn Bassett, Director of Research, Forest Research Institute
Vice Chair: Mr Harry Bunn, Director Production Forestry Division, Forest Research Institute
Two DSIR representatives: Dr Eric Godley, Director, Botany Division; Mr Mike Leamy, Director, Soil Bureau
Two Royal Society representatives: Prof Geoff Baylis, Otago University; Dr Colin Burrows, University of Canterbury (later replaced by Dr. Alan Mark, Otago University)
One representative from the Wildlife Service, Dept. of Internal Affairs
One representative from Soil and Water Division, Ministry of Works
In addition, Mr John Nicholls of the Forest Research Institute, a forest ecologist with extensive experience of South Island indigenous forests, was permanently seconded to the Committee, and I was its secretary from its inception.
At one of its earliest meetings, the Committee decided that the best way to ensure that the full diversity of biota could be preserved in perpetuity, was to create large reserves, wherever possible extending from valley floor to mountain top, and including all the major forest types of the local district. Where it was not possible to sensibly include all major forest types of a district into one reserve, a second was created. These reserves were called representative scientific reserves, and as a general rule, they were of at least 1000 ha (often much more), their boundaries were delineated by natural features ( major watersheds or major streams), and they encompassed the full range of the altitudes available. At their second meeting, members of the Committee were shown the Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve, and all agreed that this was an ideal example of a representative reserve.
By including all the major forest types, it was deemed that all ecosystems of significance would be protected, and therefore good examples of all biota would also be protected. In particular, bird surveys carried out by the Wildlife Service in 1974, 1975, and 1976, showed that populations of individual species could vary widely from year to year in any one location, and therefore a network of representative reserves offered the best protection for individual species. Where there were no scenic, riparian on amenity reserves linking the major representative reserves, the latter were usually deliberately extended to ensure that there were corridors of forest between reserves so that wildlife could pass from one to another.
In addition to the representative reserves, special purpose reserves were also created to protect areas of special scientific interest, either because of their biota, or because of their geology and land forms. For instance, a reserve was created on the watershed between the Grey and Maruia Valleys to protect the distinctive morainic landforms in this area, and to protect a high and apparently stable population of bush robins. Another was created to the east of Cronadun to preserve the type locality for a number of native beetles which had been collected there for the first time in earlier years.
For the major conference called to discuss the future of the West Coast beech forests in 1977, John Nicholls and I described in detail the forest types in each of the ecological districts that we recognised on the West Coast, and then described the reserves in detail, showing how they were representative of the areas. All the reserves designated by the Committee were at that stage called Ecological Areas. and these were set aside as reserves in perpetuity by the Forest Service, and as far as I am aware, the designations persist to this day. The areas which the Ecological Areas were representative of, we called Ecological Districts, and the methodology we used was later adopted as the prototype for the Protected Natural Area surveys which later covered the whole country.
Because of the calibre of the Committee, and because there was unanimous approval by the members of the extent and scope of the reserves, in my opinion the designated Ecological Areas are sufficient to ensure that the scientific values of the indigenous forest ecosystems are well protected in perpetuity.