New law to let cyclone-felled trees be milled

By Laura Mills

Conservation Minister Nick Smith. Photo / APN
Conservation Minister Nick Smith. Photo / APN

Parliament is expected to pass urgent legislation to enable the recovery of native timber blown over in Cyclone Ita on West Coast public conservation land.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said allowing access to the wrecked trees would mean jobs for the West Coast and cash for the Department of Conservation for investment in other projects.

Cyclone Ita hit on April 17 and caused the worst windfall damage in generations, felling an estimated 20,000ha of forest and causing significant damage to a further 200,000ha of forest.

The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa.

Authorisations will only be issued where DoC is satisfied it will be safe for workers and the public, and minimises environmental impacts.

The recovery of timber is limited until July 1, 2019, when the bill expires. All revenue from royalties will go to DoC.

A law change is needed because the current Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery after an extreme event.

The bill will be introduced and passed by Parliament next week, before the beech, in particular, deteriorates with sap stain and borer.

Dr Smith said he had the backing of United Future and the Maori Party.

He said it was not possible to estimate the value of timber to be extracted because the safety and environmental constraints may require high cost options.

Dr Smith said a permanent change to the Conservation Act may be needed to enable windblown timber in similar situations to be recovered.

- NZ Herald

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