Forest cutting rights for sale

By Amie Hickland

Cutting rights to Wairarapa forests owned by Greater Wellington Regional Council are expected to be sold in 2014 in an effort to clear millions of dollars of debt.

Councillors approved the decision at a meeting last week, which will affect the trees only and would have no impact on the regional council's ownership of the land or public access.

To be tendered are 1805ha in Wairarapa - at blocks in Stoney Creek, Hiwinui and Tauanui - and 3822ha in the Wellington metropolitan area.

The three Wairarapa forestry blocks are all near the Aorangi Forest Park.

Chair Fran Wilde said the forests were a commercial investment paid for by general rates.

She said the forests have been in debt for some time which council was "anxious" to clear.

Ms Wilde said the forestry market fluctuated and was not a reliable investment for council.

She said the real issue was whether or not local government should run commercial investments.

"Forestry is not our core business - the trees were planted to control soil erosion - so the prudent thing to do is remove the risk of long-term exposure to the ups and downs of world timber prices.

"A sale of cutting rights up front will also have the added benefit of allowing us to pay off debt."

Ms Wilde said nearly 60 per cent of submitters during the long-term plan public consultation process favoured the upfront sale of the trees, instead of selling it after the harvest.

Council expects to prepare sale documents by June next year and receive tenders by September. A sale could be completed by June 2014.

Council, as landowner, holds carbon credits through the emission trading scheme and could choose to pass on future credits to the successful tenderer, Ms Wilde said.

The forests are mainly pine trees, with macrocarpa, douglas fir and eucalyptus.

Carterton mayor Ron Mark said it was understandable council would want to sell the cutting rights to make back some money.

"That's not to say it's in the economical interest of the Wairarapa," he said.


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