West Coast State Exotic Forests sold.

    7th March 2000.

Press Release by Brian Swale (Sustainable Logging Campaigner)

The Minister of Forests, Mr Pete Hodgson, said in an article in "The Press" on Wednesday 1st March, "a community-owned economic development trust for the Coast ... will have charge of Timberlands' exotic forests, valued at almost $70 million." This echoes what the Ministry has said earlier, said Brian Swale, forester and campaigner for sustainable beech forestry.

However, on 25th February, Ian Gill, writing in the West Coast Times, reported " The West Coast's civic leaders were caught by surprise yesterday with the announcement that Timberlands entire exotic forest had been transferred to Ngai Tahu.

In a deal taking only six weeks to complete Ngai Tahu purchased 46,000 hectares of Timberlands' exotic forest as part of their treaty settlement package. "

"If these $70 million forests now belong to Ngai Tahu, it is something of a mystery how the Government can arrange to give charge of them to any Community Trust" commented Mr Swale, "unless they indulge in creative accounting and buy them back".

"If they can not arrange this, then it looks as though the Coast will receive yet another broken promise, all in four months." he added.

Consultant Chris Perley noted that Ngai Tahu had seldom retained former State exotic forests it had bought, but usually on-sold them to forestry corporates.

Mr Swale noted further, that the mediocre site quality of significant parts of the exotic forests degraded their value. "Compared with the potential under the TWC beech forest management plans of $30 million yield per annum in perpetuity on a sustainable basis, even if ownership of the exotics were to be regained, the trade- off is a miserable deal, and no bargain."

Tourism in forests could still go ahead with either option, but given the high fossil fuel component of tourism costs and the certainty of high, significant and continuing cost increases for fuel, tourism has to be regarded as a risky bet, he added. It would be foolish to rely too much on tourism against the certainty of reliable returns from sustainable indigenous forestry.

Minister Hodgson said in his Wednesday article "The Government is doing its best to show the way. We propose an economic package ... a community-owned economic development trust for the Coast ... will have charge of Timberlands' exotic forests, and extra revenue. from resource taxes levied on the Coast."

"Now that the exotic forests have been sold, and it looks as though the extra revenue will come from the Coast to help the Coast, there should be a great market for bootstraps for Coasters to pull themselves up by." " The Minister's April package should be interesting." concluded Mr Swale.