Submission to a New Zealand parliamentary Select Committee examination into the sustainable management of privately owned indigenous forests. This follows the unprincipled action by the 1999 Labour government to halt a carefully researched plan to manage specific West Coast State beech forests sustainably, (to the perpetual benefit of biodiversity) and to break, without adequate compensation, binding regional and industry agreements and contracts. Forestry has become a political tool for Labour politicians who have no understanding of forest conservation or the need for a national forestry strategy.
A politically fostered "protect by locking-up" ethic has been given primacy over internationally understood sustainable ecological management processes.
Date: 24 January 2001
To the Primary Production Select Committee
On the Inquiry into Sustainable Forestry Management.
1. This submission is from
Brian James Swale
140 Panorama Road
tel 03 326 7447
2. I wish to appear before the committee to speak to my submission. I can be contacted at the address above, as indicated.
3. My qualifications are B.Sc (NZ), MA (Forestry) (Oxon.).
I have considerable practical experience in many aspects of managing forests, having spent 32 years of my life engaged fulltime in that profession. I have a continuing strong interest in forestry, land use, sustainability, and government and the economy in general.
4. During the preparation for this submission I consulted with about six other similarly experienced and interested forestry professionals.
1. A concise history of State forest management in New Zealand is appended.
2. The scope of this inquiry should be broadened to include the State indigenous forest estate.
3. The Resource Management Act 1991 is being so poorly implemented by Regional and District councils that some means to exclude sustainable forest management from its purview should be developed and implemented.
4. To require forest owners to demonstrate that they are managing their forests in a sustainable manner, is a proposition fraught with difficulty, but nevertheless desirable, and should also apply to the State.
5. New Zealand needs a hands-on stand-alone Department of State forestry with territorial and other responsibilities.
6. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (with 850 member organisations) recently resolved that sustainable management can be an important component of biological conservation, that human beings should be regarded as an integral part of the environment; and that education, knowledge and feedback are essential.
Terms of the Inquiry.
1. To examine the sustainable management of privately owned indigenous forests and within this examination to consider:
3. To examine whether indigenous forest managers regardless of whether they are producing timber, should be required to demonstrate that they are managing their forests in a sustainable manner.
4. To examine what the future role of the State should be in relation to indigenous forest management and research, given potentially wide role of native forest management (including planting) in relation to such objectives as landscape protection, erosion prevention, biodiversity conservation and timber production.
5. To consider what policy or legislative mechanisms should be used to give effect to any findings of the inquiry.
1. History of Forestry in New Zealand.
While considering this enquiry, it occurred to me that given the length of the history of organised State forest management in New Zealand, and the relative difficulty in obtaining good information now, it might be helpful to this Select Committee if I were to prepare for it a short history of New Zealand forest management.
I have done this and the result, a document of some 12 A4 pages, is Appendix I to this submission. It was done partly to show 'how we got where we are now in this day and age', especially from the perspective of the supply of Special Purpose timbers for New Zealand.
The sources of this pocket history are:
Allsop, F. 1973. The First Fifty Years of New Zealand's Forest Service. NZFS.
Healy, B. 1982. A Hundred Million Trees. Hodder.
Poole, A. L. 1969. Forestry in New Zealand. Hodder.
Roche, M. 1990. History of New Zealand Forestry. New Zealand Forestry Corporation Limited and GP Books.
and, my own experience and knowledge gained from many sources.
My impression now is that there is perhaps a widespread public perception that New Zealand has never had much of a body - if any at all - responsible for forestry nationally in the public good. I have a suspicion, rightly or wrongly, that some Members of Parliament may also be inclined to think that way.
So, I urge you to take the time to read this brief account of New Zealand forestry - 100 years recorded in 12 pages.
2. Scope of this Inquiry.
While I can understand the political climate that would have this enquiry exclude State-owned forest from consideration, I submit that to do so avoids hard questions which should be considered, and is in any case an artificial boundary, as it were. Pests and indigenous biota do not recognise these boundaries.
I submit that the State indigenous forest estate must also be considered in this Inquiry.
3. The inter-relationship between sustainable management plans, the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and local government.
Sustainable management Plans at present are required and administered under the Forests Act.
I append as Appendix II, a copy of an address given to the public in the small North Canterbury township of Waipara, in December 2000, by Mr Bruce R Malcolm. Mr Malcolm has spent much of his time over the last eight years investigating the RMA and the ways it has been interpreted and implemented by the Waikato Regional Council (WRC). I believe he is an accountant by profession, and he has made submissions to Parliamentary Select Committees on the RMA. According to him, the way the RMA has been interpreted and implemented by the WRC is typical of many other regions and districts.
He prepared this address for one specific public meeting and not for this Select Committee. Nevertheless, I believe that the message is clear enough.
Sir Geoffrey Palmer, when overseeing the drafting of the RMA , had the clear intention that it would be an Act concerned first and foremost about the effects of activities.
What has actually happened is that there was a failure to ensure that the RMA contained explicit direction to this end. Councils (Regional and District) New Zealand-wide, have subsequently written plans enabling them to take authoritarian control over widespread unspecified activities and uses, without any basis of legal justification, in ways that are entirely at the discretion of each council, and without reference to the effects of activities.
This has been done in most cases, in such as way that they are not referenced or made subject to those sections of the Act which place councils under a degree of accountability in the drafting of Plans.
Further, Mr Malcolm advised me verbally, that he discovered through discussions with Ministry for the Environment staff who were preparing draft amendments to the RMA, that they have little or no practical experience with, or good understanding of, the results of certain RMA provisions, or the likely results of their proposed changes. From his analysis of these matters, it seems likely that in the immediate future rural New Zealand may be less well served by the RMA, and will thus continue to be until there is significant reform of it. Please refer to Appendix II.
Therefore, in respect of sustainable management of indigenous forest, the RMA and its implementation by territorial Councils, are unsatisfactory. It is quite possible that the current expressions of dissatisfaction with the RMA and Council Plans that are arising throughout rural New Zealand will result in other changes to Council plans and the RMA.
It seems to me that the best course of action for the protection of the property rights of private forest owners and to promote wise use and management of such forest, that the Forest Act should be improved (in ways suggested, for example by R K May, and the Ecologic Foundation), and placed outside the ambit of the RMA and of the Conservation Act.
4. To examine whether indigenous forest managers regardless of whether they are producing timber, should be required to demonstrate that they are managing their forests in a sustainable manner.
At the moment, New Zealand is almost unique among those countries which have a significant area of forest, in that it lacks a Department of State with hands-on and territorial responsibilities for forestry including production forestry.
New Zealand is now reaping the result of the environmental 'reforms' of 1987 et seq.
Problems of loss of overseas earnings coming back to New Zealand, of impoverished forest biodiversity, of promotion and production of special purpose species, expertise resident in New Zealand, and research are included among them. Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
It has become abundantly clear that the artificial division of forested land between preservation-oriented 'conservation' lands, on the one hand, and production oriented forest on the other, is a dismal failure on most counts. Among these must be included the signal failure of New Zealand to honour, through real action, the international treaties to perform real, accountable, forest management of indigenous forests that it has signed.
Further, as has been pointed out before (and which must be mentioned again), in the specific instance of the Government-led curtailment of indigenous state forest management by Timberlands West Coast, a small but unique critical mass of expertise, enthusiasm, example and opportunity in world-leading sustainable forest management has been destroyed.
Not only is the world the loser through this action, but New Zealand very much is because with this unit have gone the best expertise and examples for application outside the State forests. Private owners can no longer come to Timberlands to learn - and there is nowhere else of comparable size and expertise from which to learn.
The Department of Conservation does NOT manage its forests in a sustainable way, and in fact employs very few people trained in forest management. The Act under which it operates precludes it from carrying out sustainable forest management.
There are other implications. Tertiary institutions such as the School of Forestry in Christchurch must surely, as a body, be disappointed that their skilled graduates are unable to find meaningful employment in the field of sustainable forest management in New Zealand. This situation in turn has other implications which the committee can surely envisage.
There are negative implications also in respect of New Zealand becoming self-sufficient in Special Purpose timbers.
And, because of all these things, New Zealand is in the ethically undesirable (NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard) position of coming down hard on other countries to carry out sustainable management in THEIR country, but purposefully avoiding carrying it out at home. At the same time, New Zealand is prepared to import valuable Special Purpose timbers which, it cannot produce either exactly or in alternative form, which come from UNsustainable forest operations. This is, to say the least, hypocritical. The cost is not inconsiderable either; in excess of $NZ 1,000 million dollars' worth per annum.
In respect of indigenous forest research, the Forest Research Institute at Rotorua has got out of indigenous forest research (with loss of the skilled staff, as for Timberlands) and sold off the indigenous forest it owned. Forest products and exotic forestry will have benefited as a result. Other Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) do carry out some such research. Timberlands was by far the largest 'private' hands-on researcher in to management in our native forest.
Some of you may have heard the analysis of the New Zealand economy in a Radio NZ interview with economist Brian Gaynor. For those who did not and wish to read it, it may be read at the internet site http://homepages.caverock.net.nz/~bj/beech/sustainable/paper13.htm
The comments he made about Telecom apply to forestry, as also do the observations he made about correcting our disastrous national overseas debt position.
In my opinion, there is good reason, on all the grounds given above, to re-institute the New Zealand Forest Service, for the benefit of the nation.
There is a further aspect that has been widely ignored.
When the State, or a territorial land authority which is implementing law (such as the RMA) which imposes costly management restrictions or requirements on private owners of resources such as forest, primarily to improve what is seen as part of the Public Good - for example, biodiversity, there is a case in equity for proper compensation from the public purse to the property owner who has lost out. The losses take various forms: reduced capital value, increased costs, reduced net income.
The State or Region should recompense private individuals for providing, as a legal requirement, public good benefits on the private land.
6. Sustainable management, conservation, or preservation?
The place of sustainable management in some conservation work..
I wish to bring to the attention of the Committee the final text of the policy statement on sustainable use adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (some 850 conservation member organisations including New Zealand official representation) at the general assembly in Amman, Jordan during the month of October, 2000.
It reads as follows:-
"IUCN Resolution (2.16) Agreed at World Conservation Union meeting Amman, Jordan October 2000.
Policy Statement on Sustainable Use of Wild Living Resources
Two things are immediately apparent in this resolution; that human beings should be regarded as an integral part of the environment; and that education, knowledge and feedback are essential.
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