Saturday, December 2, 2023

Foresters caution against locking forests up

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Blanket bans on large-scale felling could leave less desirable plantings in place.
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Unintended consequences could prove the undoing of some recommendations made by the ministerial inquiry into Te Tairāwhiti land use.

In its recommendations, the report in general recommends a move to less large-scale clear felling, more trees planted, and fewer harvested over the region’s more susceptible erodible soil areas. 

It also recommends the Gisborne District Council (GDC) be given the power to immediately ban large-scale clear felling.

“What we do not want is for some companies to close the gate and leave trees that are not good for the environment, or Te Tairāwhiti. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Philip Hope, CEO for Eastland Wood Council (EWC), said.

A catchment-by-catchment assessment is needed in the region’s most susceptible areas for planting, harvesting and replanting policies into the future – a stark contrast to the “all pine” approach taken post-Bola.

Hope said there is some urgency around determining policy for Te Tairāwhiti’s future, given the region is poised to harvest a “wall of wood” resulting from the post-Bola plantations maturing over the coming several years.

“We are talking significant increases. Typically we may harvest 3 million tonnes a year. That will increase to about 4.5 million tonnes. The challenge may be how much we are compromising the environment by leaving trees in the ground versus felling them.”

Larger trees with greater density may be more prone to falling and taking land with them when they do.

“The increased mass of a tree aging from 30 years to 40 years can be at least an additional 50%. It is a complex process with no magic wand to fix this.”

In dealing with forest waste, the report recommends further impetus behind the industry transformation plan to promote development of processes like wood pelletisation plants to create a valued product from the waste.

“At present we only have a marginal wood-chipping business and need to come up with an energy use option that could help to decarbonise our region. Funds are there from the likes of EECA [the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority], it’s coming at the right time.”

Hope acknowledged the need for greater collaboration between industry and the GDC, claiming a lack of resourcing and policing has been a council shortfall in the past.

He noted nowhere in the report does it specify that production forestry should cease forthwith.

“This is not all bad, it is looking out at what does success look like in the long term. We welcome the opportunity to have a seat at the table.”

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