Refusal to use windblown trees a ‘missed opportunity’

A bill to allow logging companies to harvest native trees blown over in storms failed in Parliament on Wednesday night, after Labour MPs refused to support it.

National Party list MP Maureen Pugh introduced her member's Bill aimed at allowing the director-general of conservation to manage the recovery of good, millable timber damaged after severe weather events.

Although the House rose after only the second speech, the Speaker indicated that Labour was not supporting the Bill which meant it would fail, without even making it to the select committee stage.

A disappointed Mrs Pugh said yesterday it was a "missed opportunity".

"What it shows is that the Government has no common sense when it comes to these severe weather events we can suffer from time to time — it's an absolute waste of a very valuable resource."

In April 2014, Cyclone Ita wreaked havoc along the West Coast, felling more than 200,000ha of forest, including large mature trees being snapped off, tipped over, or stripped bare of leaves, causing the trees to die.

National Party MP Dr Nick Smith introduced and passed legislation allowing those trees to be harvested, outside of the nature reserves, outside of scientific reserves, ecological areas, and national parks.

Doc set up systems, and every log that was approved for extraction was tagged, and those tagged logs were then tracked through extraction, through transport, through milling, and then on to the sale. Only a small percentage of each tree was able to be removed. There was always plenty remaining for the natural ecosystem.

"Now, returning to those areas — and I have been back — it's almost hard to tell where those extractions happened, because the bush recovers so quickly," Mrs Pugh said in Parliament on Wednesday.

"There are real job opportunities here at a time when we need to use every opportunity.

"Do not be influenced by the scare-mongers who opposed the temporary legislation in 2014, because all the terrible things they said would happen did not happen. Doc managed it well. They managed it safely and efficiently."

Labour MP Rachel Brooking said the party opposed it because the focus on timber on conservation land was not appropriate.

"These trees, whether alive or dead, but particularly talking about dead ones — they provide habitat, they provide cover for new trees. There's recycling of nutrients and a decrease in erosion often, so we oppose." —Greymouth Star


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