Sensible resource extraction

The major problem with resource extraction such as previous metals, fuel and wood is that the opponents such as Forest and Bird, the Green Taliban and often also Labour take a zero tolerance stance.  That leaves no room for negotiation, and even in the event some initiative is quite sensible, they continue to try and sabotage any economic progress for the area and the country on the basis that the only outcome should be to leave everything just as it is.

I have a personal affinity with New Zealand’s native forests, and don’t like the idea of selective logging.  The ecosystems of those areas aren’t understood the the point where we can just start picking the eyes out of healthy forests and expect it to recover.

But nature sometimes gives a helping hand.

Helicopters have started salvaging some of the native timber blown over by Cyclone Ita on the West Coast in April.

The storm destroyed thousands of hectares of forest, and over the summer hundreds of valuable rimu logs are being recovered from bush land near Lake Brunner to be made into flooring and furniture.

Each log is worth about $5000, but once milled and processed they can be worth eight times that.

“It’s strictly taking very small percentages of the highest-value timber out,” says Jon Dronfield of New Zealand Sustainable Forest Products. “The economics of helicopter logging are pretty high. It’s an expensive business but it works for a high-value timber like this.”

While the logs have been expertly cut to size, there were no chainsaws involved in their felling; they were flattened by Cyclone Ita in April that blew over hundreds of thousands of trees, potentially 5 million tonnes of native timber.

Instead of letting it slowly rot on the forest floor, the Government pushed through new legislation allowing a tiny proportion of it, just 2 percent, to be extracted over the next five years.

Letting timber drop and rot away is part of the life cycle of the forest floor.  The argument that all (usable) logs should be extracted is akin to starting a sequence of events where the forest will not recover from the windfall.  In nature, logs don’t get taken away.

But at 2%, it is clearly an acceptably low amount of timber to take out.  Especially since they will only need to take the commercially viable logs, and the ones that would normally be turned into firewood and woodchip are left to be part of the life cycle.

What’s left of the forest near Lake Brunner is the first to be picked over. There are about 300 tonnes of wood to be removed from the site, which is about 215 individual logs, helicoptered out one by one.

But down the road, instead of lifting whole logs out, another operator is milling his logs right on the forest floor, producing long rimu planks.

“This timber will go into the local industry on the West Coast and into the domestic market, so the opportunity is there for finished wood products, furniture, flooring,” says Alan Tinnelly of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The timber is being planed in Christchurch and shaped into high-grade rimu floorboards. That’s good news for the local market, as New Zealand native timber has been in short supply since the Labour government outlawed its extraction in 2002, and what little bits there have been around have struggled against cheaper imported timber.

Back in the forest there’s plenty to go around. Mr Dronfield estimates that only 1 percent of the fallen logs will end up being taken from the forest floor; the rest will be left to rot.

This is a great example where a National Government made a great decision.  It didn’t destroy the forest with greed, and it didn’t destroy the local economy by being Luddites.

Well done.

– 3 News


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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