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Eugenie Sage on the West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill, Second Reading

I would just like to explain to any of the New Zealanders who are listening to this debate or watching it that normally by its second reading a bill would have gone to a select committee. The select committee would have invited public submissions. The select committee would then have heard those submissions. Submitters normally make quite constructive comments on the policy in the bill and on any of the deficiencies in it, and suggest amendments and how it could be improved. It is a place too where you pick up any major defects in the drafting. We have not had that opportunity with this bill. That is another of the reasons that the Green Party is opposing it. It is being forced through under urgency, yet it concerns public protected lands, forests, that New Zealanders campaigned for 30 years or more to protect from native forest logging. The public is being given absolutely no say in letting loggers, chainsaws, haulers, and skidders back on to what is supposed to be protected conservation land. The *Department of Conservation is supposed to hold those lands in trust for all New Zealanders and manage them on all of our behalf. Yet by pushing this through under urgency and denying the public a say, it is highlighting again just how anti-democratic this Government is. One of the reasons I think that the Government wants to push it through under urgency is that it knows when New Zealanders wake up to the major assault on our protected areas, they will oppose this law. The select committee, if we had had a public process, would have been inundated with submissions against the bill.

The Green Party wants more jobs on the Coast, but we want them to be well-paid, long-term jobs; not boom and bust ones as these logging ones will be. When Nick Smith was asked today what he would do to ensure that jobs stayed on the Coast, he would not commit to that. In fact, he has made it very clear that he is not interested in that. It is a very cynical manipulation for the Minister to promise that this bill is about jobs. I certainly agree with the scenario that Richard Prosser outlined in the first reading. That is because this bill cuts across the *Forests Act 1949 and the restrictions that the Forests Act puts on the export of unprocessed timber. This bill allows the export of sawn timber, or stumps and roots and tree ferns. The timber use will not be restricted to New Zealand. Again, it was misleading of Minister Brownlee to claim that the bill is about allowing New Zealanders to enjoy the ambiance of native timber. These logs will be exported with very little processing. The export of unprocessed timber will not create jobs in New Zealand. It will simply increase the market for native timber and that will increase the pressure on private forests on private land.

We have been here before when we had the export of native woodchips. That led to huge forest destruction in Southland and elsewhere—in Nelson. This bill, the *West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill, will not only see the market flooded with native timber, it will undermine the prices that those private landowners are receiving for forest that they are allowed to log by the Ministry of Forestry under the *Forests Act. If the Minister was really serious about restarting the native forest logging industry, then those loggers would need more than the 5 years they are going to get under this bill. So I agree with Ruth Dyson that this is potentially a Trojan Horse* for changing the law to allow much greater access to our protected areas to log them. So, Minister, come clean. What is it? Is it a quick and dirty law to allow loggers to opportunistically plunder West Coast forest or is this the first step in allowing logging across all of our conservation lands?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The storm did the damage.

Eugenie Sage: The storm has done the damage. You are doing more damage now by allowing the loggers in, the skidders in, the haulers in to create those destructive practices where you mess up quite large areas in order to extract the timber.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the member been there and seen it?

Eugenie Sage: Yes, Minister, I have. One of the most disappointing times I have ever had is walking through logged forest and seeing areas that have cleared.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Have you seen the storm damage?

Eugenie Sage: The storm damage is natural. As the forest rots, those rotting logs are a natural part of the forest system. At the moment there are about 50,000 hectares of native forest that can be logged on private and Māori land and managed for sustainable management under the Forests Act. Before Cycle Ita the logging of those areas on private forest generated about $5 million annually. It provided about 6,500 cubic metres of rimu timber. But those 6,400 cubic metres were just 30 percent of the volume of rimu that the *Ministry for Primary Industries had approved for logging. The existing market had not even been able to absorb 70 percent of the timber that the ministry had approved for logging, so what this bill will do, by opening up conservation land, is flood the market with native timber. Where will it go? It will not be used in New Zealand because it cannot be taken up by the market. It will be exported. Why are we exporting our forests, our cathedrals offshore to be used however?

The Ministry for Primary Industries had *KPMG do a value analysis of privately owned indigenous forests last year. It did not look at the forest value for ecosystem services, for preventing soil erosion, for regulating water flow, but it did look at the annual value for logging. KPMG said that for the logging industry to expand there needed to be a significant investment in kiln drying because beech is useless as a timber unless it is properly dry and there needed to be a significant investment in heavy-lift helicopters. The kiln drying was estimated to cost $1 million and heavy-lift helicopters $4 million to $5 million. So what is this Government going to do? Is it going to hand out subsidies to the native forest logging industry in the way that it is doing to irrigators to allow us to go back to the future, back to the 1950s when native forest logging was expanding in New Zealand? Or is this, Minister, just a dirty little bill to allow the loggers opportunistically to plunder conservation land?

By promoting native forest logging on the West Coast the Minister is effectively saying that he has no absolutely no confidence in the work of the West Coast Development Trust. The West Coast got $120 million in 2001 when native forest logging ceased in order to invest in alternative employment and look at adjusting to the end of native forest logging. The trust has handed out over $56 million to 109 different commercial development opportunities yet the Minister is saying no, that is not enough, we have to allow more logging. So this is a very dirty little bill but I suspect that it is a Trojan Horse for allowing much more logging on much wider areas of conservation land. Because, as I said in the first reading, it does not restrict the logging to helicopters we will see highly damaging skidders and haulers. They will introduce weeds, they will damage existing healthy damage, and they will compromise the forest for further regeneration because they are heavy—they compact the soils, they prevent seedlings regenerate.

One of the problems is that there are no heavy-lift helicopters operating in New Zealand at the moment, as I understand it. That means that the Minister with this bill is opening up conservation lands not to the sensitive helicopter extraction but to the highly damaging traditional methods of logging extraction with haulers and skidders and the like. This is a very bad bill because of the process that has been used to force it through under urgency with no opportunity for the public to have a say and thereby opening up lands that are supposed to be protected to logging and turning the *Department of Conservation from an agency that was supposed to preserve and protect our natural resources into one that is about regulating logging, learning how forestry works, and giving approval to all of these skidders, all of these chainsaws to damage and desecrate our protected areas.