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
      Christchurch 8008
      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:

(a) The scope and range of sustainable management plans.

(b) The processes and procedures for developing sustainable management plans.

(c) The relationship between sustainable management plans and sustainable management permits.

(d) The inter-relationship between sustainable management plans, the Resource Management Act 1991 and local government.

(e) The international credibility of sustainable management plans for privately owned indigenous forests in New Zealand.

(f) Consider the conditions or requirements placed on those wishing to harvest or market timber from native forests.

2. To examine what restrictions, if any, should be placed on those wishing to completely remove native forests in favour of other land uses.

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.

4a. In the the terms of reference for this inquiry, no distinction is made between indigenous forest that has been planted, and natural indigenous forest.

This is an important distinction, even though planted indigenous forest is rare.

It seems to me that the owners of planted forest should be less regulated in respect of management than owners of natural indigenous forest.

A complication in this regard arises however, where an owner has augmented the tree stocking of natural forest by planting additional plants. Then there is an intermediate state, which should perhaps have special legal recognition and provision.

4b. As mentioned elsewhere, New Zealand has signed international agreements, that it will manage its native forests in a sustainable manner. The State has by far the largest indigenous forest estate in New Zealand, and it is not being managed sustainably - in fact the laws under which this forest is being administered at the moment lay down that sustainable management may not be carried out in these forests.

The widely believed fictions at the moment in New Zealand include that these very large state forests and their biodiversity are being conserved by the 'lock-up' preservation mode, that it costs little public money to do this, that the country can afford the costs, that 'use' (read sustainable management) of the forests equates to their 'destruction', and that the potential timber yields from these forests managed sustainably are negligible as a significant contributor to employment, a potentially insignificant contributor to the supply of important timbers, and a potentially insignificant earner of or replacement for overseas funds.

These are indeed fictions, and they are costing the country and its biodiversity dearly.

In addition, the Department of Conservation is unable to control pests in the conservation estate to the extent that when forest-owning neighbours control animal and plant pests on their property, re-infestation rapidly occurs from the adjoining DOC estate. This is a significant cost to many private forest and landowners.

4c. The definition of what constitutes forest is important. Several different definitions are available.

4d. Forests and other vegetation types are not in a static state. Their state is ever changing, dynamic. This fact has impacts on, for example, pastoral farmland.

Over much of New Zealand, more so in some places than others due to higher rainfall and other reasons, pastoral land may 'revert' from grassland or tussock to increasing intensity of vegetative cover by woody shrubs and/or trees. In order to maintain the worth of the vegetative cover for grazing, the landowner may have to use one number of a variety of methods which could include fire, overstocking with cattle, herbicidal chemical sprays, and so on.

It could be that under a poorly performing manager a pastoral property changes from grassland to having much high scrub (which might be seen as juvenile high forest), then with a change to a dynamic, energetic manager, there is action taken to restore the grassland cover or initiate some other crop such as plantation forest.

At what point of vegetative change is the owner not permitted to restore the grassland? And be faced with managing 'forest' that is unwanted and unintended by the owner.

This is not a hypothetical question. It comes from consideration of real situations on the East Coast North Island.

5. To examine what the future role of the State should be in relation to indigenous forest management and research, given the potentially wide role of native forest management (including planting) in relation to such objectives as landscape protection, erosion prevention, biodiversity conservation and timber production.

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

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

  1. Conservation of biological diversity is central to the mission of IUCN, and accordingly IUCN recommends that decisions of whether to use, or not to use, wild living resources should be consistent with this aim.
  1. BOTH CONSUMPTIVE AND NON-CONSUMPTIVE use of biological diversity are fundamental to the economies, cultures, and well being of all nations and peoples.
  1. Use, if sustainable, can serve human needs on an ongoing basis while contributing to the conservation of biological diversity.
  1. At its session of the General Assembly (Perth, 1990) in Resolution 18.24, IUCN -- The World Conservation Union recognized that 'the ethical, wise and sustainable use of some wildlife can provide an alternative or supplementary means of productive land-use, and can be consistent with and encourage conservation, where such use is in accordance with appropriate safeguards'.
  1. This position was re-affirmed in Resolution 19.54 at the following session of the Union's General Assembly in 1994 and subsequently in Resolution 1.39 at the 1st meeting of the World Conservation Congress in 1996.
  1. Analyses of uses of wild living resources in a number of different contexts demonstrate that there are many biological, social, cultural, and economic factors, which combine in a variety of configurations to affect the likelihood that a particular use may be sustainable.
  1. On the basis of these analyses, IUCN concludes that:
    1. Use of wild living resources, IF sustainable, is an important conservation tool because the social and economic benefits derived from such use provide incentives for people to conserve them;
    2. When using wild living resources, people should seek to minimize losses of biological diversity;
    3. Enhancing the sustainability of uses of wild living resources involves an ongoing process of improved management of those resources; and
    4. Such management should be adaptive, incorporating monitoring and the ability to modify management to take account of risk and uncertainty.
  1. To increase the likelihood that any use of a wild living resource will be sustainable requires consideration of the following:
    1. The supply of biological products and ecological services available for use is limited by intrinsic biological characteristics of both species and ecosystems, including productivity, resilience, and stability, which themselves are subject to extrinsic environmental change.
    2. Institutional structures of management and control require both positive incentives and negative sanctions, good governance, and implementation at an appropriate scale. Such structures should include participation of relevant stake-holders and take account of land tenure, access rights, regulatory systems, traditional knowledge, and customary law.
    3. Wild living resources have many CULTURAL, ETHICAL, ECOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC values, which can provide incentives for conservation. Where an economic value can be attached to a wild living resource, perverse incentives removed, and costs and benefits internalized, favorable conditions can be created for investment in the conservation and the sustainable use of the resource, thus reducing the risk of resource degradation, depletion, and habitat conversion.
    4. Levels and fluctuations of demand for wild living resources are affected by a complex array of social, demographic, and economic factors, and are likely to increase in coming years. Thus attention to both demand and supply is necessary to promote sustainability of uses.
  1. IUCN is committed to ensuring any uses of wild living resources are equitable and ecologically sustainable, and to this end it has established the Sustainable Use Initiative which incorporates regionally-structured Specialist Groups of the Species Survival Commission to:
    1. Identify, evaluate, and promote the principles of management that contribute to sustainability and enhanced efficiency in the use of wild living resources; and
    2. Regularly communicate their findings to members and the broader community."

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.

.... @ END @ ...