Early harvest debated

The site of the former Coronet Forest. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The site of the former Coronet Forest. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Queenstown council’s defending its decision to prematurely harvest its Coronet Forest above Malaghans Rd.

Veteran forester Jim Childerstone believes council would have been far better off harvesting the 175-hectare forest after almost 45 years rather than 31, as he and other foresters had advised.

He says on council figures, its ‘profits’ from harvesting the forest, between 2020 and May last year, came to about $10,500 per ha, excluding planting, pruning, thinning and management costs.

At the same time, he points out other Douglas fir forests were returning $20,000 to $25,000 per ha.

In response to his official information request, council says the profit yielded from the site was $1,895,840, and both the profits and yield were higher than first predicted.

Spokesman Sam White says Douglas fir forests are usually harvested after 40 years.

Since 80% of Coronet was planted in 1984-85, they were harvested after 36 to 38 years, not 31.

He notes 85% of respondents to public submissions on the 2017 Coronet Forest management plan favoured an early harvest.

Council’s reasoning was the forest was a major seed source for the rapid spread of noxious wilding pines.

According to the management plan, "the cost to control the spread from the forest if it was harvested at maturity (youngest stands in 2039) has increased to an estimated $8.5million to control around 5500ha of infested land".

Childerstone, however, argues wilding seed spread from neighbouring conifers has been going on long before Coronet Forest was established, and also contributing, recently, has been the removal of stock and ridding the area of deer and goats.

Meanwhile, council’s planning an extensive native planting project to regenerate Coronet Forest, and has been working closely with the Coronet Recreational Working Group, which has reps from local groups and organisations that use this area, White says.

"We look forward to consulting with the wider community to find out what people would like to see happen here in the future."

Kay Eden, president of the Wakatipu Adult Riding Club, says "we’re extremely excited we might have somewhere safe to ride horses, because we’re a totally forgotten sports group".

"All we want to do is get out and enjoy our lovely area safely, because the roads are not safe for us."