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Forest owners protect the environment

The Forest Owners Association in New Zealand says there are forest-based solutions to some of the issues raised in a report released by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright. Source: Timberbiz

The Chair of the joint Forest Owners and New Zealand Farm Foresters Associations’ Environment Committee, Peter Weir, says New Zealand’s plantation forests lock up millions of tonnes of carbon.

“Once we get a real carbon price going under the Emissions Trading Scheme then the area and the carbon our forests lock up will increase again,” he said.

“That helps address what Dr Wright calls, climate change … by far the serious environmental issue we face”.

But Peter Weir says blanket planting on highly erodible land of short rotation pinus radiata for clear-fell is not an optimum solution.

“There is a trade-off between markedly reduced erosion for 27 to 30 years while the trees are growing and an elevated risk for the five or so years after harvest,” he said.

“We have a draft National Environmental Standard sitting with government at the moment. I hope it’s going to be implemented very soon.

“In it, there are rules about requiring geotechnical assessments before any planting on highly erodible land, to see if that terrain can support access roads and clear felling – otherwise a standard radiata forest can’t be planted on such land as a Permitted Activity.

“It may well be those kauri, totara, redwood, Douglas Fir or other speciality timbers are a more suitable species.”

Peter Weir says the NES for plantation forests is a comprehensive yardstick, which will lead to consistent and defensible rules to maintain water quality.

“We have specifications for instance, which limit the number of times a logging truck can go across a ford in a stream, so as to reduce the mud washed off the tires, which might affect native fish,” he said.

“Jan Wright has correctly identified that water quality is high in forested areas, and it should be kept that way.”

Peter Weir says the biodiversity in the pine plantation forest also includes the bird life.

“Along with kiwi and kokako, most of the endangered New Zealand falcons live in our pine forests. These forests are the main hope for survival of this apex predator,” Mr Weir said. “A cut over area, next to a mature stand of pines, is their habitat of choice. The falcon nests on the ground and then uses the tall trees to spot its prey.

“We fully support measures to control introduced animals, such as rats, possums and mustelids, which prey on falcon chicks.”

Mr Weir also says the forest production industry is leading in reduction of transport greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have a modern logging and transport fleet, certainly in comparison with the average New Zealand car,” he said.

“A third of our logging trucks are less than three years old and a high proportion of these vehicles are compliant with the most rigid US or EU emission standards.

“But we can do better in our transport and looking at only using shore power for vessels berthed at our log loading ports would be well worthwhile.”