Appendix I to submission from B J Swale.
Written by B J Swale.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FORESTRY IN NEW ZEALAND

ESPECIALLY STATE FORESTRY

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO TIMBERS WITH SPECIAL PROPERTIES

The earliest actions - from 1874 to 1919.

From 1874 to 1919, a succession of Forest Acts were promoted by small groups of enthusiasts and passed by Parliament, with the main purposes of giving the forests special legal status and protecting them from fire. During this period, the administration of Crown-owned forests was extremely fragmented, and hampered by lack of interest by high-level administrators, documented in the report of the 1913 Royal Commission on Forestry. The 1914-1918 war impeded developments, but on 5 October 1917 Prime Minister Massey announced that he would set up a special department of forestry. The need for professionally trained staff was appreciated. Initially part of the Lands Department, the separate forestry department was set up from 1 September 1919, under L. MacIntosh Ellis.

Another factor of significance to forests was the introduction of mammals from overseas. These included: possum, 1837; wallaby, 1874; rabbit, 1838; hare, 1851; mice, black, and Norway rats, from about 1800 or earlier; stoat, 1884; weasel, 1884; ferret, 1867; cat, ca.1800; pig, 1773; red deer, 1861; goat, 1773.

First comprehensive forest policy.

The first statement of forest policy, from Sir Francis Dillon Bell in 1919 which included management of indigenous forests for sustained yield and maintenance of protection forests, was augmented in 1920 by Ellis's innovative policy statement, the basic argument of which was that New Zealand's timber supply problems must be solved by action in New Zealand.

Main points of his policy included the following:-

Not all of these comprehensive proposals were accepted, and some would not be carried out for many years. No forest development fund was ever established.

A very early task of the Forest Service was to make a nation-wide inventory of the indigenous forests. Another was to rationalise the location of exotic plantings and double the annual area planted to 4,000 acres (1,619 ha).

A further major feature tackled by Ellis was timber sales. Most sales from state forests were unbusinesslike and served neither the citizens or the forests. Significant reform of timber-sales policy was implemented.

Ellis drafted a new Forests Act, which was to last until 1949. Under it, in order to secure stability for long-term forest management, permanent State Forest required resolutions from both houses of Parliament if release of any from reservation was to occur. A sound system of forest and district fire control was instituted. Ellis also firmly promoted the concept that all that pertains to management, administration and protection of timber lands is forestry, in contrast to the widespread public perception that forestry comprised merely the planting of young trees.

Eventually, a Head Office in Wellington, with seven regional conservancies were established for administration. Skilled staff were slowly recruited, the first new professionals being mostly graduates from Edinburgh.

In 1925, Ellis presented his first 5-yearly review of the Operation of National Policy. In that period, the Forests Act had been passed, the Forest Service set up, dedicated State Forest increased to 7.5 million acres (3,035,145 ha), State plantations had grown to 63,000 acres (25,495 ha), non-state planting had responded to encouragement, and State forest receipts had increased significantly. On the negative side, survey estimated that there were just 5.6 million acres (2,266,242 ha) of merchantable indigenous forest, with 39,000 million board feet (92,029,600 cubic metres) of softwood and 23,000 million board feet ( 54,273,867 cubic metres) of hardwoods, three-quarters in State forest. Little of the land still in forest following logging showed evidence of regrowth of timber-producing species.

Timber supply forecasts, and consequential action, 1925.

Forecasts suggested that the commercial indigenous forest would be exhausted by 1965 - 1970. There were just 40 years within which to develop self-sufficiency, and the indigenous species seemed to grow too slowly to provide for that.

Following recommendation from Ellis, it was decided to increase the area of State plantations to 300,000 acres (121,406 ha) during the ten years to 1935, and self-sufficiency in timber by 1965 was expected to ensue, on the following basis:-

Source of supply
Annual Timber Yield
(board feet)           (cubic metres)
State plantations
450,000,000       1,061,880
Indigenous forests
50,000,000       117,987
Local body, proprietary and private plantations
150,000,000       353,960
Imports
50,000,000       117.987

TOTAL

700,000,000       1,651,813

(These volumes are probably in 'sawn measure' after milling. Add about 20% to visualise log volumes.)

By 1965, the prediction for exotic timber production had proved accurate, but there had not been the extent of decline expected in indigenous timber production.

In the late 1920's, New Zealand was struck by the world-wide economic depression which resulted in widespread unemployment. Afforestation was seen by government as constructive relief work and an increase in planted areas during the period 1929 - 31 resulted. Some cultural treatment of existing forests also occurred. Ellis resigned in 1928 and was succeeded by E. Phillips Turner, who managed to maintain the impetus for afforestation despite opposition. By 1931 the economic position was so bad that, but for determined opposition from its new Director, A.D. McGavock, the Forest Service would have been abolished and re-absorbed into the Department of Lands and Survey.

McGavock years, 1931 - 1939; policy reviewed and renewed.

In 1934, McGavock found it necessary to review policy and state his philosophy for the continued operation of the State Forest Service (as it was named until 1949). This may be summarised as follows:-

'The national forest policy has a two-fold purpose - the maintenance of climatic, soil and water equilibria, and the supply of timber and other forest produce. Of these two, the former is the more important. Conservation of the protection forests, defined as the preservation of the forests by wise use, and the intensive management of these forests will assist with timber supplies.

Of the remaining virgin forests, over 80% are overmature where there is no net increase in volume, conversion of this 80% into healthy growing stands producing timber to the potential of the site could take as much as 150 years to achieve, current demand for timber is such that a supplementary forest capital resource based on exotics is of great importance, the exotic forests will meet the timber demand for at least the next 150 years, but based on overseas experience, exotics are likely to have definite limitations and hence the indigenous forests must be managed for maximum possible production of timber. Study of this management must soon be accelerated.'

During the directorship of McGavock, the area of permanent State forest doubled from 2.1 (849,841 ha) to 4.8 million acres (1,942,493 ha ) and the total area of land under Forest Service control rose to 7.8 million acres ( 3,156,551 ha ), 12% of New Zealand.

State exotic forest plantings reached 300,000 acres ( 121,406 ha) in 1931, four years before the target date of 1935, and private plantings totalled 400,000 acres ( 161,874 ha). Under C.M. Smith's influence, species other than radiata pine were given a greater role. The Forest Service commenced trials of extraction of indigenous logs using new techniques with tractors to replace the destructive ground-hauling with cables prevalent until then, with the hope of leaving a more intact forest structure for regeneration.

Early sales of exotic forest logs to existing sawmills (set up for indigenous logs) yielded poor timber and showed that radically new techniques were needed if the potential of the rapidly maturing exotic forests were to be realised. So the state began to set up large sawmills at Waipa (Rotorua) and Conical Hill near Tapanui to develop and demonstrate all required techniques.

During the ten years up to about 1940, there was a move to establishing exotic forests better able to meet local, rather than national, timber supply needs, and the distribution of forests reflects this effort.

In 1939, A.R. Entrican, engineer in forest products, was appointed Director of Forests. He gave new directions and impetus to state forestry, but from the start his efforts were hampered by shortage of skilled staff, and the Second World War. The first successes came from Waipa State Sawmill where, not only did the production help meet critical war demands for wood, but new equipment and methods developed or adopted across a range of logging and milling processes and made freely known to industry, significantly contributed to the success of the pine plantations.

Price control and the political climate.

From 1920, and again in 1936, under various forms, control of timber prices was in force. This persisted until the mid-1960's, re-introduced in 1968, and not removed finally until 1980; in total longer than for any other commodity. The prices were held artificially low.

All governments saw this mechanism as a means of ensuring some political popularity, as it helped to keep the costs of house construction low, and most houses were constructed of wood. This price control had several deleterious effects which included: a disincentive to invest in forests, a disincentive to efficiency in the conversion of trees (including indigenous trees) to sawn timber, devaluing of timber as a raw material. These disincentives introduced a negative national mind-set about timber and forest values which persisted long after the controls were removed.

Thus, the Forest Service was seldom seen by government as creating or developing resources of value, and the idea of good forest profitability was largely ignored. Often the Forest Service was called upon to take over undesirable tracts of land with one or other severe problem - weeds, soil or geological instability, expected to solve the problem and to grow a good forest.

Similarly, despite the publicity given to the need for management of the forests of the country and the need to manage and provide for continued supply of timber, forestry was seen as a Cinderella occupation, a barely necessary evil. Most governments had their power base in rural, farming electorates. New Zealanders had, and would have for some decades, the opinion that forests must be cleared of trees and farming land developed from forests and swamps. There is a duality of mindset - people like trees but dislike forests. Forests cover the land and one cannot see over the countryside. Access is reduced. Consequently when land was purchased for the establishment of exotic forests, intense political lobbying from rural groups against the forest, or at the very least against any tracts of fertile land being included within the forest estate, was usual. To develop forest on land that once was cleared of forest was perceived in much of the rural community as a retrograde step. Development of new forests is also feared for the depopulation of rural communities expected in consequence. Some studies have shown that these fears have their basis in part to the concern that some local identities have that they will lose power and influence in the particular district.

Policy proposals from Entrican.

Early on, Entrican also set out policy recommendations, which included:-


He envisaged perpetually managed indigenous forests with selective logging, innovative, progressive timber processing, and attractive, good quality housing and villages for forest and sawmill employees. A significantly improved comprehensive system of assessment of indigenous timber for sale and related factors was developed and instituted, which, yielding more realistic values, assisted in persuading sawmillers to improve their techniques and efficiency.

In the decade following World War Two, the constraints on many things eased. Staff were recruited and trained, and the specialists that were so greatly needed in so many fields, were obtained. With these and better equipment of all kinds including radio communication, forest management and protection was placed on a more sure basis, and forward planning was also improved. The Head Office also began to have the experts and the organisation needed to ensure co-ordination, progress, and innovation. A cohesive, balanced organisation arose.

Following a serious fire over 30,000 acres ( 12,141 ha) of private exotic forest at Taupo in 1946, the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1947 gave responsibilities for fire administration, increased in 1955 when the Forest Service became responsible for fire protection of Crown-owned land.

In 1949 a new Forest Act was passed; one provision changed the name of the Service to New Zealand Forest Service.

From 1940 to 1952 (continuing preservation interest from 1906), a campaign aroused public emotionalism about Waipoua Forest (9,105 ha; 22,500 acres, 30% kauri forest) in Northland, which resulted in it being given forest sanctuary status by Parliament and being removed from forest management. This was the probably first major confrontation between people wishing to preserve a tract of indigenous forest essentially untouched no matter what, and professionally trained forest managers who also saw the opportunity to provide for the timber needs of people in addition to providing professional conservation activity for the same biota and land.

Shortly after, (1954) in response to public expressions of need for legitimate forest recreational opportunities, the working plan for Tararua State Forest, a 280,000 acre (113,312 ha )protection forest north of Wellington, enabled positive measures for public use. This led to the State forest park concept which allowed freedom of entry and recreational use to be incorporated into the operation of forests which were also managed for other objectives including timber production where appropriate; true multiple-use management.

Hansson's 1920's national survey of indigenous forests had significant limitations by the end of World War Two, and from 1946 to 1955 a very thorough National Forest Survey of the lower-altitude indigenous forest was carried out, using aerial photographs and professional sampling methods; techniques hitherto unavailable. From 1956 onwards, similarly-organised 'Ecological Surveys' were applied to higher altitude forest, scrubland and grassland. Data sets of excellent quality about these vegetation types were then available for decision-making.

From early years, as alluded to above, exotic forests were created on sites where other factors caused problems. For example, on shifting sand dunes at Santoft, Waitarere, Woodhill, Waiuku, Tangimoana and Aupouri; unstable land at Mangatu, land infested with nassella tussock at Omihi; and flooding at View Hill.

Large-scale, integrated forest industry at Tasman.

Entrican had long held ideas for the utilisation of wood from Kaingaroa forest in an integrated sawmilling, pulping and papermaking factory. From the 1920's, innovative work he undertook developed the new techniques needed to suit not only radiata pine, but other pine species as well. The so-called 'Murupara project' was eventually set up at Kawerau, to produce newsprint and sawtimber, the main organisation being the Tasman Pulp and Paper Company, with a subsidiary, Kaingaroa Logging Company, to carry out some of the logging. Production commenced in 1955, yielding sawn timber from large-diameter butt logs, groundwood pulp from small-diameter top logs, and sulphate pulp from small- and medium-sized logs and industrial waste wood slabs and the like. In order to be internationally competitive the company had to install very big machines, and from the beginning exported 70% of its kraft pulp and newsprint output, an exporting achievement few other companies have ever made.(J C Fletcher, National radio, 2/12/2000)

The initial proposals were for 23 million cubic feet ( 651,286 cubic metres) for 25 years, with right of renewal for two further consecutive periods of 25 years, and the option of acceptance of a further 5 million cubic feet annually. The price initially was about 3 pence per cubic foot ( $1.05 per cubic metre) - and the company has sought to make the renewals on the same price terms.

The company has gone from strength to strength, and was purchased by Norske Skog (Norway) in the year 2000.

This extremely low stumpage (for timber still standing on stump, unfelled) price, helpful for the company in the earliest years, has, through its long duration, for such a significant volume, and in combination with the 60 year-long period during which sawn timber was under price control, had a disastrous effect on investment in new forests and on the efficient utilisation of timber. Indigenous timber, in particular, has been undervalued in consequence. It turned out to be also a state subsidy for this particular factory, an advantage that NZ Forest Products (NZFP) never had. Tasman and NZFP however, by dividing the world market between them in a way that ensured they did not compete, also ensured that this subsidy did not impact overly on NZFP. In about 1954, the two companies agreed (initially for 10 years) that Tasman would confine its non-sawmill produce to kraft pulp and newsprint, and Forest Products similarly to kraft pulp and paper, building boards, and corrugated containers; and also not manufacture any newsprint or fine writing and printing papers.

Caxton Paper, alongside Tasman, manufactured fine papers and tissues.

NZ Forest Products Ltd came into being in 1935, taking over the (approximately) 150,000 acres (60,700 ha) of mainly radiata pine forest ( 1 million trees then, is claimed) planted since the 1920's on privately owned land by Perpetual Forests Ltd., near what is now Kinleith. By 1982 their forest area had increased to more than 200,000 ha. as they took over other companies, bought land, and planted. An integrated pulp and paper plant, and sawmill, was developed at Kinleith, between the Waikato region and Taupo. They also have a significant factory at Penrose, Auckland.

Further, when the NZ Forest Service methods of operation and programmes were examined by Treasury from 1980 onwards, and by politicians in for example the McLean report of 1978, the lack of emphasis on reporting of profit and loss, (not before specifically required) was held against the Service in criticism, and a new emphasis on profitability combined with a financial analysts' disregard of forestry and environmental values, and of strategic resource planning, weighed against the Service, which seemed unable to adequately counter the arguments.

Forest Service staff were probably politically and financially naive and un-informed as well. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, Roger Kerr, now CEO of the Right-wing Business Round Table, but then a high Treasury official, was heard on radio to say and explain that the State had no (legitimate) business being 'in forestry', statements which at the time, especially to Forest Service staff imbued with a spirit of productive service to the public and nation, seemed incomprehensible and stupid. With hindsight, these statements can be seen to have given a glimpse of the unimaginable that was to come from 'leaders' who worked to agendas written around the private profit motive and with no sympathy for work leading to public benefits and the common good; especially not co-operative and non-competitive work.

Advances in the 1950s

From 1950 to 1960, production from the large-scale industries based on the State exotic forests grew rapidly; at the end of the period, annual production of pulp was 261,000 tons, and paperboard 181,000 tons. The material sold readily in New Zealand and overseas. Sawn timber likewise; an increase in demand of about 80 percent, supplied from the exotic forests which now supplied 66% instead of 33% of the material.

By about 1960, supply and demand projections were made with some confidence for both exotic and indigenous timber supply. From 1937 until the mid-1950's, rates of planting new forest had been low - about 10,000 acres ( 4,047 ha) per annum. Then, exotic forests totalled about 1 million acres ( 404,686 ha) in all tenures, and it was forecast that this area should be doubled by the end of the century if projected domestic and overseas markets were to be satisfied. Government approved a new planting programme of 25,000 acres ( 10,117 ha) annually in state forests, leaving 5,000 acres ( 2,023 ha) to be established privately, to meet the expected target. The state forest targets began to be achieved in the early 1960's.

At this stage too, expansion of state forests took a new direction, planning concentrating it in new locations to suit industry, local markets, and export markets.

The pioneering work at this time by Dr Bob Fenton into the economics of pruning and thinning for the production of wood free of knots (clearwood), and of forest location, led on to continuing developments by others as well, by providing management evaluation tools and raising consciousness about cost-effectiveness and greatly improving a wide range of forestry practices and techniques.

Mechanical and chemical techniques were used from this period onwards to convert severely damaged cutover indigenous forest in Westland, Southland and the Central North Island to exotic forest. At about this time too, the fungous disease Dothistroma pini found its way to New Zealand and began to exert a lasting effect on exotic forest composition - tree species such as corsican and ponderosa pines which never develop a resistance to it, began to be phased out of the sites where they had been particularly suited.

Programmes providing financial inducement for the planting of private forests were in operation.

The 1960's better directions under A L Poole as Director-General.

In 1961, after the retirement of Entrican, A. L. Poole was appointed Director-General and a new management structure of functional directorates, sitting alongside the seven regional conservator responsibilities, was created to better serve the more complex responsibilities of the Service. The Forest Research Institute at Rotorua was also re-assigned as a Head Office directorate.

The 1960's, 1970's and early 1980's were exciting for Forest Service staff. There were of course setbacks, disagreements and mistakes, but on the whole the Service was united, forward looking, and enjoyed being productive, creative and innovative for the benefit of all New Zealand, for specific regions and sectors of the economy, and for forestry as a profession and industry. There was an ongoing great sense of satisfaction and achievement, as at the end of each year increased benefits and resources for New Zealand and New Zealanders could be seen to have been created.

By the early 1980's, New Zealand conifer plantation forestry led the world in excellence.

So it is worthwhile at this point to list just what were most of the achievements.

Achievements of the NZ Forest Service.

With research of international quality, developed and constantly improved for important exotic and indigenous species:
- forest establishment techniques,
- great advances in tree genetics, especially for radiata pine, douglas-fir and eucalypts,
- many forest nursery techniques,
- understanding, use and control where necessary and possible of fungi and insects,
- improved silviculture incorporating economic factors as appropriate,
- sawmilling techniques,
- timber preservation techniques,
- seasoning/drying techniques for sawn and round timber,
- sound timber grading techniques and promulgation of these,
- standards of sawing, timber grading, preservative treatment to give improved product service and customer confidence,
- marketing to achieve consumer acceptance,
- development of glue-laminating techniques for structural purposes,
- development of pulp- and paper-making techniques,
- in the field of mensuration; world-leading techniques of forest measurement, simulation, product and value prediction,
- indigenous forest survey and type mapping.


The only significant tree species group with which the Service had little contact was poplars, largely because there was a branch of the Ministry of Works engaged in researching this and there was poor inter-departmental co-operation in this topic.

Progress notes pertaining to specific forest types - 1960s onwards.

From the early 1960's production of pulp and paper increased more than did that of sawn timber, and the sales to Tasman Pulp and Paper Ltd increased as a result. At this time too, the first exports of logs to Japan took place. Initially these were of very defective logs and helped clear some forest sites of poor-quality trees. These early sales however, established for radiata pine an unwanted reputation as a low-grade utility timber incapable of satisfying more demanding uses, and much remedial client education had to be done later to establish the worth of higher quality material it was desired to sell.

For the state indigenous forests, sales methods were improved further to encourage efficiency in conversion to sawn timber or veneer, and distribution of product.

Silviculture and management of the indigenous forests again received a little more attention. Several thousand hectares of naturally regenerated kauri forest near Russell and on Great Barrier Island were improved by thinning and releasing, and improved growth rates resulted. Genetic improvement of kauri was carried out, and planting of kauri seedlings in significant numbers was carried out for many years. In a serious endeavour to maintain an intact forest structure and avoid damage to significant advance regeneration (early attempts to sustainably manage the forests), selection logging commenced in the terrace rimu forests of Westland, using a variety of ground-based vehicles in lieu of the destructive cable ground-haul logging formerly used nearly everywhere. Dispatch Foundries of Greymouth made log haulers for all New Zealand.

In the 1970's and later, significant development work was done on beech silviculture. Much early work had been done in Southland, in Alton Valley silver beech, in the 1950's, and similar work with red beech was done in the northern Kaimanawas in the 1960's.

Various schemes to lease state forest land for private forestry (plantation) use, and to lease Maori land for joint use with the State, came into operation. Among these were Aupouri forest on sand dune country near Ninety Mile beach, and the East Taupo forest on scrub-covered land.

A second planting boom was foreshadowed in a 1959 NZFS forecast of demand and supply of forest products which concluded that unless an expanded programme was embarked upon, there would be a deficit by 1975. Labour's 1960 Industrial Development Conference ignored forestry, but Entrican took the opportunity to create a note of concern and highlight four conclusions, the main one being that exotic forestry had to be re-defined as a major legitimate land use and not merely an incidental one. (Nearly half a century later this is still a point of difficulty and attaining acceptance due mainly to pastoral farming failing to provide acceptable incomes.) However, only with National coming into power in late 1960, did government take much notice of the information.

During the 1960s a series of reports from several sources reinforced the need for more exotic forest in the national interest, and target areas for annual new plantings increased several times. Distinctions began to become clearer between regional and national needs, and the proven improved economics of forests as compared with farms gave strength to arguments in favour of forestry as a land use.

An exotic forest survey commenced in 1959 provided national data on forest area and yield.

From 1967, the first year since the economic depression of the late 1920s, unemployment began to show again, and state forestry was used again to provide employment specifically for this. Thus, state forestry began to become entwined in the economic and political life of the country in a way that would lead to it's undoing in the 1980s.

Forestry Development Conference; 1969.

In 1969, being the 50th anniversary year, the Forest Service held a Forestry Development Conference (FDC), planning for which commenced in 1965. This eventually became part of a National Development Conference that later was held. There was comprehensive industry and government sector participation. The main objective of the conference was to recommend policies which would ensure that New Zealand would make the best use of its capacities to grow wood and to develop industries based on the forests. Recognition was also given to the social and environmental aspects of forestry and forest industries, and particularly to the creation and preservation of scenic and recreational facilities, and protection against erosion.

The importance of the forestry sector in the general economy was such that at this time when the national population was about 2,850,000, it employed 37,000 people (1.3% of the total population), generated 12 % of NZ industrial income, 41% of manufactured exports, and 4% of the GNP. Forest industries employed 10% of the industrial labour force.

The FDC concluded that with continued growth of the exotic forests and markets, industrial production could for some time expand to meet the increasing needs of the population as well as exports. It was expected that production could be increased from 240 million cubic feet roundwood equivalent in 1968 to 390 by 1979; and export earnings from $51 million in 1968 to $96 million in 1979. Based on the past good export performance, these forecasts were accepted as targets, representing an annual compound growth rate (value) of 9.7% over the 11 years.

New afforestation at the rate of 52,000 acres ( 21,044 ha) per annum for the next 20 years was recommended, augmented by an extra 5,000 acres ( 2,023 ha) annually during 1970 and 1975 to solve gaps in supply.

Regional forest units of between 100,000 ( 40, 469 ha) and 200,000 acres (200,000 ( 80,937 ha) preferred) were planned for Rotorua/Bay of Plenty, Nelson, Hawke's Bay and Otago-Southland as a basis for integrated industrial units. The proven profitability of forestry had by this time reduced the power of opposition to new exotic forests in the land-allocation processes.

About 2.7 million acres ( 1,095,692 ha) were estimated to be subject to serious soil erosion, and exotic afforestation was proposed to solve that.

In addition to the importance given to production of wood, and conservation of soil and water, the FDC supported forest management which enabled recreational use of suitable forests by the public, and the provision of items such as tracks, bridges and huts to facilitate this.

The FDC endorsed an expanded research effort at FRI, fostering research at universities, and endorsed Forest Service training schemes.

A permanent organisation advisory to the Minister, the Forestry Development Council was set up, to monitor and report.

It is clear now, that with the legislative authority of the Forests Act 1949, and this ringing endorsement from the FDC, the Forest Service considered by 1970 that it had a very strong and secure mandate for sustained forest management, and expansion of the State exotic forest estate for at least the next 20 years. Government was stable and Ministers of Forests knew what the department was about. The way was clear for continued creation of a valuable renewable primary resource in exotic forests for the benefit and well-being of the nation, developing and implementing improved management of indigenous production forests, and the management and conservation of a vast protection and recreational forest and mountain lands estate.

The world was its oyster.

Work continued vigorously on attainment of these objectives.

There were other, and important, Forestry Development Conferences in later years, but these had little impact on the prime concerns of this brief history.

At this point it is worthwhile to recall the principles and ideas of forest conservation that gave rise to the Forest Service, and McGavock's 1934 restatement of policy and priorities. These had not lessened since, although the striving for and successes of exotic forestry may have disguised that fact. In 1939, Entrican restated that the exotic forests were to supplement the indigenous forests and that conservation, 'wise use', and regeneration of indigenous forests, sustainable production and sound land use were utmost priorities.

The Labour government placed timber under price control in 1936, and the war following soon after saw this control continued. Much timber was diverted to the war effort, so that at the end of war, there was significant deferred repair and reconstruction to be carried out as well as supplying an expanding house market for new houses. Building construction using non-wood materials did not have the range of alternatives that were to be available at the end of the century; wood was still the dominant material, especially for house construction.

In the decade after the war, although indigenous timber consumption declined as a percentage of the total from 71% to 51%, in absolute terms the production increased at times by more than 50%.

From at least 1952 to 1965, the year of repeal of the control mechanism, the Forest Service argued strongly with government most, if not all years, for the repeal of price control on the grounds that it maintained excessively high use rates of indigenous timber, a failure of industry (for a variety of reasons including evasion of the control mechanism) to make the best use of the special properties of indigenous timbers, and that government itself was losing revenue from selling the timber. Governments did not agree, instead giving higher priority to such goals as 'a house for most families'. Successive Ministers of Forests congratulated sawmillers on reaching new and higher production levels, thus highlighting that an expanded housing construction programme was more important to government than a forest conservation policy. The Service came to realise that this head-on confrontation on this with government could never be won and changed argument. The altered arguments were successful.

Evolution of indigenous forest management ideas.

The period from the 1940's through the 1960's also saw ideas for management and use of indigenous forests change and evolve. Forest conservation policy, research findings and resultant conclusions about natural regeneration, multiple use, recreation in forests, the forest park concept, and protection forestry all evolved and some were to become subject to controversy and conflict.

One problem that was never solved in favour of indigenous forests was that some commercial species, in particular kahikatea, matai and totara, require fertile soils to which dairy farming (seen to be more in the national interest) would have and was given precedence.

While it was recognised during this period that some kind of selection forestry would be necessary for rimu, there were significant difficulties in developing suitable log extraction techniques that did not cause severe and lasting damage to the fragile soils and their drainage, since most techniques relied on machines that rolled across and on the soil. Only with the advent of heavy-lift helicopters in the 1990's was this problem to be satisfactorily overcome.

Kauri was the species with most promise for sustainable commercial forestry, but the public preservation campaign which saw Waipoua forest ( the largest area remaining of kauri forest) made into a sanctuary was to be a significant obstacle to realising that potential.

During this period too, factors counter to successful regeneration of beech forest - particularly problems with insect attack which showed up in trial work - caused considerable pessimism.

Selective logging, the key to success in sustainable and perpetual indigenous forest management, was to become a key issue of contention between the Forest Service and environmental groups in the 1970s.

New Zealand-grown exotic conifer timber had not been accorded wide public or industry acceptance by 1952, in which year the Forest Service released interim data from the national forest survey which showed that the remaining timber in the commercial indigenous gymnosperm forest was less than 20% of what had been expected from the Hansson survey. At current rates this was just 11 years' cutting in the North Island and 40 in the South. Unfortunately, the news coincided with outbreaks of insect pests in exotic forests, and there was widespread concern. The Forest Service presented proposals for reducing the felling rate.

Politicians reacted strongly to the news, and the Parliamentary opposition - appearing to regard it as a threat to meeting public housing needs - was hostile.

Final figures from the national forest survey showed that the softwood reserves were not quite as low as thought but still only 25% of Hansson's volumes; however, hardwood reserves were but 20% of Hansson's volumes.

During the next 6 years to 1958, aided by increased use and acceptance of exotic timber, felling of indigenous forest slowed, and the underlying ethic changed to one of attempting to maintain the ecological character of the forest and securing natural regeneration, rather than the government one of eking out remaining supplies. Indigenous forests were again identified as a source of special purpose timbers.

However, while State indigenous forests were conserved somewhat better, sawmillers were cutting even faster in privately-owned and Maori forest and did so until at least 1960. Even in the 1965 Annual Report to Parliament, the Director-General of forests acknowledged the impracticability of regulating cutting of non-state indigenous forest, in this regard. It was politically unacceptable.

On the exotic forestry front, the Forest Service had to accept defeat also in its plans for state wood to be processed to best advantage in integrated industrial plants. While this occurred to some degree, it rankled that much potentially excellent sawtimber was pulped, and in any case the industrialists striving to create ever bigger pulp and paper plants to secure economies of scale and seeking for increased profits, mitigated against best conversion practices. Thus industrial forestry outmanoeuvred environmental and professional forestry, and still holds the ascendency in the main exotic forestry regions.

Continuing from the FDC of 1969, the Forest Service issued a publication in 1970 entitled 'Conservation Policy and Practice', in which it was stated that the Forest Service was carrying out a consistent overall policy of production and protection forestry in terms of multiple use conservation, and it was also stated that all State forests were being managed according to multiple use principles.

At various times the special status of and need for indigenous forest management on the West Coast was highlighted.

The 'South Island Beech Forest Scheme' of 1971.

In 1971 the Government published a document entitled 'Utilisation of South Island Beech Forests'. The Nature Conservation Council and representatives of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society inspected Westland beech forests in respect of the proposals, and considered their response.

Eventually, it was decided that although there was no objection to some beech forests being used for sustainable management, the plans for clearfelling and burning of others for the establishment of exotic forest was regarded as unacceptable. Forest and Bird decided to organise a Parliamentary petition to effect changes. Subsequent opposition from an increasing list of environmental groups grew from being opposition to the 'beech scheme', into an assault on the basic tenets of the Forest Service. The Forest Service, which had since its inception regarded itself as a conservationist department concerned with wise use and protection of forest and land - in contrast with other government bodies which promoted exploitative and consumptive use, found it difficult to understand why there was such persistent opposition to its plans which it perceived as being for the good of the nation.

The third Labour government of 1972 - 75 endorsed the beech scheme.

Notable among the protest groups was the Auckland-based 'Beech Forests Action Council', later to become the Native Forest Action Council, of 1975; which launched a petition called 'the Maruia Declaration' and which was aimed specifically at reforming administration of indigenous forests in New Zealand especially those under Forest Service control. This declaration, presented as a petition, collected 341,159 signatures by the time it was presented to Parliament in July 1977. The declaration was intended to stop harvesting of indigenous forests, and included six principles, which were -(amplification in brackets):-

  1. Native forests, wherever they remain, need recognition and protection in law.
  2. The wholesale burning of indigenous forests and wildlife has no place in a civilised society. (But much open land outside indigenous forest can be planted).
  3. The logging of virgin forest should be phased out by 1978. (But in some places it may be possible to produce high quality decorative woods in perpetuity).
  4. Our remaining publicly owned native forests should be placed in the hands of an organisation that has a clear and undivided responsibility to protect them.
  5. To reduce commercial pressures on native forests, the growing of fine quality exotic and native timbers on land not presently forested should be given encouragement. (And ongoing research into silviculture is needed).
  6. It is prudent to be conservative in our consumption of these forest products, especially newsprint and packaging paper, which make heavy demands on our precious resources of land, energy and water.

This declaration foreshadowed 15 years of conflict and opposition to the Forest Service that were to come.

Eventually, the beech scheme proposal faded through lack of decision on the part of Ministers. In following years however, the Forest Service management and harvesting, or proposals at Puketi, Russell, Kaimai-Mamaku, Horohoro, Pureora, Whirinaki, Tongariro, East Coast (N.I.) Oparara valley, Big Bush, Inangahua, Maruia, Paparoa, Abut Head, Okarito and Waitutu forests saw either issues or petitions in conflicts.

At the second Forestry Development Conference of 1975, Malcolm Conway then Director-General of Forests, presented a new, multiple-use, zoning approach to indigenous forest management, in a long paper. Parliamentary elections and change of government in the same year resulted in a lapse of two years before the new government took on board the message of this paper. Government decided to reduce indigenous logging to a sustained yield basis, and paid $3.75 million dollars each to two companies at Pureora and Barryville in compensation for closing contracts for indigenous timber from Pureora forest.

Price control of indigenous timbers, removed in the mid-1960s but re-introduced in 1968, was still in force in 1980, and once again hampered efforts to institute better timber use practices.

Special purpose species highlighted.

In 1979, the Forest Service held a 3 - day 'Workshop on Special Purpose Species' ( 20 to 22 March ). It was becoming increasingly clear that commodities and products that required timber of particular and special properties, would not be able to rely for much longer on indigenous timber to meet those needs. Utility timber needs were now being adequately met by plantation pine and fir wood, as intended by the planners at the start of the century; but not special purpose needs.

This workshop identified and listed the special properties and commodity groups which involved timber tree species that can be described as 'Special Purpose'. In general the workshop ignored indigenous species except in passing, and recommended (softwoods) Cupressus macrocarpa (Hardwoods) Black walnut, Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), Eucalyptus saligna, E. regnans and other ash-type eucalypts.

The 1980's - financial analysts, political strategists, environmentalists.

In the early 1980s, the Forest Service came under increasing and repeated attention in respect of spending, accountability, and profitability; especially from Treasury which, it is fair to say, probably had little or no appreciation of the mandates or ethics of the Service.

From the 1981 parliamentary election, Labour party indigenous forest policy was aligned increasingly with the views of the environmental groups, through parallel concerns.

This became crucially important at the 1984 election where Bob Jones' opportunistic 'New Zealand Party' spoiled the chances for National to be re-elected, and Labour capitalised on their new-found environmental allies. Labour won this election and considered it had to repay the environmental groups which it did in part through giving effect to the long thought-out economic proposals of Roger Douglas who had already (in 1978-80) had a involvement with forestry.

In November 1986, in order to put an end to the environmental bickering and to put sustainable management of the West Coast indigenous forests on an secure footing to enable sound and constructive planning, the West Coast Accord between the Crown and a consortium of environmental groups, and West Coast interests, having been drawn up and debated during several months prior, was signed.

At the end of March 1987, the Forest Service was dis-established with the loss of about 3,000 jobs, and the Forestry Corporation, DOC and Ministry of Forestry were established using some of those staff. The Forestry Corporation was handed the state production forests including the West Coast indigenous production forests, and Timberlands West Coast Ltd was established as a State Owned Enterprise (SOE) to run the Coast forests..

On the basis of this Accord, Timberlands began an eight-year and several million-dollars' worth planning-in-detail programme for sustainable management of rimu and beech forests. The timber production from this management could meet much of the nation's special purpose timber needs - but not all. The special planting programmes for these species commenced by the Forest Service ceased about when the Service did. Had there been continuation, New Zealand would be 20 years further down a productive road of growing some of these special purpose species clearly needed so much by us all right now.

For the State exotic forests, all came initially to the Forestry Corporation, but after three years it too was disbanded (1990) and the crops in the State forests sold ( for two rotations or about 60 years) to many companies; the land remaining in Crown ownership. In many places this land has been on-sold to Maori under Treaty of Waitangi settlements, and this land has in most cases been on-sold again to private interests, mostly overseas-owned.

In the years 1999 and 2000, the Labour government took several steps which have drastically reduced the domestic supply from state forests of special purpose indigenous timbers for industry and the needs of New Zealand citizens. This brings us to the present day.

In conclusion.

Historian Michael Roche wrote in 1990, ('History of New Zealand Forestry' page 376) quoting a submission from the N Z Institute of Foresters on the 1980 McLean Report (Ian McLean, Roger Douglas, Michael Cox) ( a Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Select Committee in Public Expenditure), that a fundamental problem was that 'the subcommittee members clearly had only a hazy notion of the essential purpose of a public forest service - that is, to maintain and manage a national forest estate for the whole spectrum of public needs and aspirations'.

Hopefully, this brief history helps by providing useful information in this regard.