Kit Richards makes a written submission to the New Zealand Parliamentary Select Committee set up to receive submissions on the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill, (intended law). He demonstrates that ecological, sustainable forest management, as developed by Timberlands West Coast delivered not only what New Zealand needs, also shows the way for the World to meet Agenda 21 and Rio agreements. The preservationist model is exposed as non- functional and unrealistic in the New Zealand context, inevitably resulting impoverished biodiversity and impoverished human society.

Submission on the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill.

By Kit Richards, 19 June 2000.          

As submitted by Mr Richards, this document
contained several typographic errors and
other textual errors. I have made some minimal
changes to correct these. Brian Swale.


Monday 19 June 2000


This submission is made in opposition to this Bill, on the following counts.

1 - The Bill as proposed presents a complete breach of the intent of the many international agreements of which the New Zealand is a member signatory.

2 - As a tool to promote and improve New Zealand's conservation record, this Bill represents a dismal mis-targeting of the cause, effect and priorities required to increase New Zealand's performance in biodiversity conservation.

3 - This Bill, if passed, sends a long list of adverse messages to the wider New Zealand community and the international community at large, in respect of behaviours that are acceptable to resolving long term, important environmental and resource management issues.

4 - This Bill represents a blatant abuse of executive power to override known and acknowledged contracts between the Crown and its civilians, in an attempt to patch over and erase what has become clearly obvious is nothing more than short-term political vote-catching tantamount to corruption.

5 - This Bill is completely devoid of accountability mechanisms that can be used to monitor and to call to account politicians whose decisions support its introduction.

6 - This Bill is clumsy in its formulation and leads to inconsistency in regulatory approach, foregoing important long-term objectives of clarity, integrity and consistency in legislation for an urgent political need to satisfy ignorance.

7 - This Bill if passed, is discriminatory against a region and its people.

I wish to be heard to present a submission in full inclusive supplementary information that will be provided in the course of that oral submission.

Submission in detail.

1- International obligations.
As a nation New Zealand has regularly made the case to the world that it takes seriously its obligations under the international agreements and treaties it has signed; that it undertakes to diligently perform upon the intent of such obligations, and that it does so with integrity.

New Zealand has participated actively in the Rio conference, in The Convention On Biological Diversity, and in the Agenda 21 process. All these processes are about achieving the conservation and enhancement of biological diversity of the earth as a whole using a full range of available tools that meet the specific needs of the country concerned. Preservation is but one small part of the total package of tools regularly referred to in these agreements. Accorded equal status are references to the need to develop management systems that recognise national and sub-national variation, solutions that recognise that needs of immediate dependent communities, and solutions that assist in the restoration of degraded ecosystem function. This Bill, if passed, fails to achieve the conservation of biological diversity objectives of these international agreements, and in the course of its passage blatantly breaches the other principles of conduct that this country has signed up to.

None of these international agreements has as an objective preservation. In all cases preservation is part of the spectrum of systems that a country should consider to reach the objective of sustainable resource management. If this Bill is passed, the politicians who speed its passage are giving a clear signal, that what New Zealand says is not what New Zealand does. In reality it is signalling that learning to live within our own resource needs is not New Zealand's objective, rather exporting our environmental negatives for the benefit of our urban majority is a prime political consideration.

2 - Mistargeting and Contrary Effects.
This Bill if passed will represent a victory of populist conservation and media-fuelled ignorance over hard common-sense data. It will stand as a flagship of political ineptitude by those who backed it, as vast resources are misallocated, when the information required to assess and decide the issues has been available and common knowledge for over a decade.

It is well recognised that the key to New Zealand's success of failure in the conservation of its biological diversity hinges on two key factors.

  1. to protect our forest diversity requires an urgent cessation of a policy of adding marginal additional areas of vegetation cover to already existing large areas of protected vegetation, and instead directing all resources at protecting the vast array of relevant lowland indigenous forest in the highly fragmented and modified Ecological Districts that typify most of New Zealand except the West Coast.
  2. to protect our fauna diversity requires active and significant investment in the research, implementation and management of pests and predators throughout all vegetation remnants.

The net benefits arising from the enactment of this bill will achieve neither of the above objectives. Instead more area of forest that was never under threat will be added at huge financial cost to a very large estate with which it was contiguous, which is already "protected" and which already clearly demonstrates the effects of institutionalised Crown neglect. The recent budget announcement simply confirms that the Crown is unable to meet its obligations to protect its existing estate let alone an expanded estate. Furthermore the passage of this Bill in the light of the recently announced budget also clearly demonstrates that these forest areas are not being protected on the basis of high conservation value or priority, but rather for political expediency.

This Bill, if passed, will lead to the transfer of an indigenous harvesting industry to other regions of New Zealand that have a dramatically less sophisticated reserves network in place. In these regions almost all lowland forest types of almost all Ecological Districts have been heavily reduced. It is on these remnants that sustainable management, to standards that as a rule fall well below those of the proven record established at Okarito and Saltwater, will be practiced.

Finally, the Crown will through this Bill, position New Zealand as an increased importer of other countries' native timbers, almost all of which will come from forests managed to standards much lower than those proposed for forests of the West Coast. New Zealand will make a statement to the world. "If we can export our consumption based "environmental bads" we will, in preference to taking responsibility for our own resource use!".

3 - Hypocritical messages.
In a similar vein to be international message discussed above, the whole process and procedure by which New Zealand has arrived at the Bill seriously questions the credibility, integrity and capacity of New Zealand Government to act in a way that provides for sound long-term resolution of complex problems.

In recent months, based on extensive and prolonged studies, two Government published documents, the draft Biodiversity Strategy and the BioWhat? document have been published. Both these documents have recognised that the protection of remnant fragmented forest currently distributed around most of the rest of the country, is the key to the successful restoration or even just maintenance New Zealand's biodiversity.

These reports have recognised that critical to the success of any strategy involving these lands is the need to bring farmers and landowners on-board with trust, interest and motivation, to perform localised conservation management at a level that no Government agency could ever hope to achieve. These documents have also emphasised the need for research, for active management, and for clear scientific process to establish priorities for spending what are going to be very scarce resources on a very large pie.

In almost direct diametric opposition to these principles, the messages that the politicians seeking to pass this Bill will be sending, are as follows;
  • Natural systems cannot be managed ecologically sustainably. Cf unnatural or modified systems are sustainable.
  • that externalisation (export) of consumption effects that is not visible nor accountable to the bulk of the (urban) consuming public, is acceptable.
  • Sustainability is a uniform recipe achieved by simple central dictate.
  • Sustainability is a rural problem - its achievement is an urban right.
  • Perception and option values of a remote majority outweigh the tangible values of resource dependent users.
  • Misinformation and abuse of science is a legitimate democratic process.
  • Conservation is a free public good.
  • Dis-integrative or "oppositional" science is politically endorsed because it provides simple blacks and whites to the public through mass media.
  • Sustainable resource use is about "yes" and "no" rather than risk management.
  • Sustainable resource use is only about perception within our borders, not reality globally.
  • Governments need not display discipline and follow statutory and accountable process equivalent to that applicable to the public at large, and may act thus without comprehensive impacts analysis.
  • Governments have discretion to impose uniquely discriminatory policy on a region and its peoples.
This is an appalling set of values for any Government to attach their name to.

4 - Breach of Contract.

This Bill, if passed, represents a blatant and unconstrained abuse of the executive power of Government in an attempt to patch over their own negligence. This Bill is about attempting to remove the option for people to exercise their right for redress and accountability should this Labour Government's social experiment fail in achieving its social, economic and conservation objectives.

The West Coast Accord in respect of the beech was undoubtedly a contractual and Moral undertaking. The Crown have been advised of high risks associated with successful litigation, were they not to abuse their position as the State and annul the Accord.

There have been many attempts to rewrite the intent of the Accord and in fact to rewrite history, by people who have had no association whatsoever, or at best only a loose association with the construction of that document. As one of those who negotiated the Accord, and one of those whose who helped defend the Crown against inappropriate and greed based claims against the Accord of a few years back, I have no doubt that the Accord was intended to provide for the perpetual capacity, subject to normal environmental law, to produce native timbers on sustainable basis. The document was presented by the then Labour Government as a legal document that was signed by the parties on that basis. It has, as the Crown's lawyers have indicated, been recognised as legal.

This Bill, in seeking to advance the pre-election promise beyond the point of stopping the beech, also represents a blatant act of bad faith to those parties who have acted in good faith and totally within the law. To absolve itself from payment of compensation and to severely undervalue the damages caused to the community, is a matter of bad ethical practise that the wider business community has clearly taken some note of.

5 - Accountability and Monitoring.
The drafting of this Bill contains no thought to accountability for the results of this dishonest social experiment. The very people seeking to force this regime upon the West Coast region have made sure that in the draft there are no grounds for recording the outcomes and accountability for the decisions.

This Bill should not be passed without the allocation of a comprehensively estimated monitoring budget allocated to the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. The purpose should be to enable periodic auditing, on a five-yearly basis, of the extent to which the Crown has protected lands that it intends to transfer under this Bill. There should be full public disclosure of all results.

It is already apparent from the most recent budget that non-performance on pest control will be the operative mode. The recent sum allocated to pest control (with the promise of continuance beyond the next election) amounted to no more than an annuity that could have been purchased forever had the $120 million been invested in existing Conservation lands, not to buy votes.

It is now imperative that an independent body be in a position to report specifically on whether the bird numbers of Okarito and Saltwater Forest continue to increase, the Kiwi are saved in Orikaka Forest and that Kaka and Parakeet are the focus of attention in Maruia Forest. Other items for monitoring should include the annual expenditure of DOC on these forests and a comparison of performance in relation to the sustainability criteria of the Montreal Process.

Additionally a whole raft of socio-economic indicators such as house values, educational levels, health, relative economic growth/ income, demographics etc, should be monitored and reported upon, starting now!

It is likely that as a signatory to the Montreal Process, the passage of this Act will demote our capacity to meet the sustainability criteria of this international agreement. Participation in this agreement commits signatories to monitor their national forest estate against a whole range of criteria and measures. During a New Zealand visit such as that performed in Westland where they visited, Okarito was reported as likely to be compliant with the protocols, while the failure to control pests and predators on Conservation lands was a problem.

Finally, the Resource Management Act specifically requires that people resident in New Zealand manage resources in such a way that protects certain key functions of the ecosystem, including the protection of habitats and threatened species. Clearly the performance of the New Zealand Government over the last 15 years has been poor. It is time that the Department of Conservation, acting as manager on behalf of the New Zealand people, was required to report on its efficacy in relation to all critical components of the RMA. The now halted beech proposals contained a comprehensive list of monitoring proposals required to prove that it was managing its forests sustainably. This Bill cannot be passed with credibility, unless the Department of Conservation (the Crown) is required to monitor those same relevant components.

It is time that an end was put to having one set of rules for the general public and another set of rules for Crown agencies and their political masters.

6 - Inconsistency
In addition to the inconsistency created by the lack of accountability described above, this Bill also creates other farcical inconsistencies. Delegations are passed to Ministers to make decisions about the suitability for purpose of Conservation land from ordinary conservation purposes through to national parks without a full section 8 analysis and public process.

Not only does this degrade the scientific credibility of New Zealand's reserves network, it also highlights the desperate nature of the Government's abuse of power. That a Minister, without further detailed investigation nor public transparency and scientific rigour, can decide the status of reserves on the West Coast - while being unable to decide the fate of similar land in other parts of the country, lacks credibility.

7 - Discrimination.
The sum total of all the previous points leads to a situation that is unique New Zealand's recent history. Not since the illegal and immoral confiscation of Maori lands under a whole raft of self-justifying rationale 100 years ago, has an entire region and its people, been unilaterally disadvantaged. Despite following all due process and law they have been deprived; of opportunity without full and proper compensation, of the benefit of the application of normal statutory process, of the benefit of full and open evaluation of consequence, and of recourse to accountability.

The passage of this Bill if successful, will represent a further downward redefinition of political integrity, accountability and honesty.

The politicians who promote this Act have shamed New Zealand and themselves.

C. R. Richards       19/6/00


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