New Zealands natural forests have been the subject of protracted public and political debate regarding the role of Government in forestry and the future use of natural forests during the last three decades. This review covers the evolution of the countrys logging ban since the early 1970s, when public interest and disquiet over natural forest management became prominent, through late 1999 when the Government decided to phase out the last logging operations on State-owned natural forests in the West Coast region.
Some events played major roles in the way logging restrictions have been implemented. One was the development of planted forests of introduced species, which eventually became the main source of timber in New Zealand. Another was the reorganization of the Government natural resources administration in the mid-1980s, which resulted in the separation of commercial planted forests and natural forests.
Prior to these events, large areas of natural forests covering New Zealands rugged and erosion-prone terrain were also set aside for water and soil protection. Such reservation became a feature of forest management when the first Government policy on natural forest management and timber sales was formulated.
The exclusion of timber harvests from other natural forests, as a matter of national policy for conservation reasons, is a relatively recent development in New Zealand. Logging restrictions followed growing public interest in natural forest management in the 1970s, and subsequent political changes affecting forestry administration. The Government reorganized the natural forest administration in 1987. Maturing planted forests provide alternative raw material in many parts of the country, cushioning the effect of these changes in the forest industry.
After 1987, new policies and legislation focused on private forests. Timber harvests have not been banned in these forests. Commercial timber harvests are, however, restricted by export, sawmilling, and sustainable forest management constraints.
Natural forest areas affected by logging bans
Logging restrictions eventually will apply to about 5.1 million ha of New Zealands State-owned natural forests. An additional 142 000 ha of State-owned natural forests and about 1.3 million ha of private forests are subject to restrictions that limit commercial timber harvest according to sustainable forest management guidelines. However, much of the natural forests in all ownerships cover steep land and other protection areas. After forests within catchment protection areas, national parks, and other key reserve areas are removed from the available harvest area, an estimated 930 000 ha of logged and unlogged forests on State lands remain directly affected by the logging ban. Similarly, about 670 000 ha of private forests are potentially available for commercial management, although only about 124 000 ha of this area are currently of commercial interest.
New Zealand lies between latitudes 34° and 48° South, and comprises two main islands, extending 1,600 km from north to south, and 250 km east to west. The total land area is just over 27 million ha. About 50 percent of the land is steep, including the main mountain systems and adjacent lands.
The climate ranges from sub-tropical in the north to sub-Antarctic in the south. The prevailing westerly winds give rise to a rainfall gradient from west to east. Rainfall is generally between 600 and 2 500 mm per year.
New Zealands population is 3.6 million (1996 census). The doubling time for the population is estimated to be about 75 years and the population is projected to be 5.4 million by 2010. The majority of New Zealanders live in urban centers and enjoy a high standard of living.
Forests and the forestry sector
Forests cover about 8.1 million ha, or 30 percent of New Zealand. The forests are made up of 6.4 million ha of natural forests and 1.7 million ha of planted forests. The planted forests comprise mainly radiata pine with lesser areas of Douglas fir and other species (Table 1). The natural forests reflect a long period of separation from major landmasses, evolving a unique flora and fauna with a high percentage of endemism among the higher plant species and bird-dominated fauna. The forests also reveal patterns of destruction and renewal following major volcanic eruptions and glacial advances in recent geological time, and more contemporary influences of erosion, destructive storms, and earthquakes.
Table 1. Planted forest areas in New Zealand (April 1999)
Area (thousand ha)
Percent of total
Other introduced softwood species
Introduced hardwood species
Prior to human settlement by Polynesian explorers in about 1250 AD, approximately 75 percent of New Zealand was forested. Major clearance commenced with the arrival of Europeans in the mid-nineteenth century. The current distribution of natural forests reflects the development of the last 150 years. The most extensive natural forest tracts are in the State-managed conservation estates, which are located primarily in the hills and on higher altitude slopes. Smaller natural forests remain on private lands in the lowlands. The total natural forest area includes unlogged and logged forests in various stages of regeneration, as well as reforested farmlands.
A reassessment of the extent of total forest cover, including regenerated areas, is almost complete following work on the revised New Zealand Land Cover Database. Project findings indicate that the current estimate of forested land area (6.4 million ha) is conservative in light of the cumulative contribution of regenerated forest remnants.
Figure 10. Estimated forest cover in New Zealand, (from left) 1000 AD, 1840 and 1976
Planted forests have steadily replaced the natural forests as the mainstay of the wood processing industry since the 1950s. The industry has emphasized the utilization of increasing volumes of relatively fast-growing radiata pine. In 1998, 16.3 million m3 of roundwood (over 99 percent of the total) were harvested from planted forests and less than 0.1 million m3 came from natural forests. Much of the radiata pine is in the post-tending age class range (10 to 25 years). Maturing stands mean that the total production is likely to double within the next 10 years.
Six companies, with individual holdings totalling over 50 000 ha each, own over 50 percent of the planted forests. The balance is held by smaller companies, forest investment companies, private groups and partnerships, and farm-scale growers. About 50 percent of current plantings are by small-scale growers and over 98 percent of the area planted in the last three years has been with radiata pine. The management objective is to produce high-quality clear wood. Intensive pruning and thinning are complemented by increased use of improved planting material.
Much of the harvested planted forest timber is exported as finished components, sawn timber, and unprocessed logs. In 1998, 10.7 m3 of timber were processed domestically, while the roundwood equivalent of 8.6 million m3 were exported as raw logs and processed products valued at NZ$2.4 billion.1 Forestry directly provides jobs for over 25,000 people and contributes 3.9 percent to New Zealands GDP.
Processing industries include integrated sawmills with drying and finishing facilities, panel producers including medium density fiberboard (MDF), plywood and particleboard, and pulp and paper producers. A number of smaller sawmills produce rough sawn, and planed and dried timber.
The natural forest timber industry has undergone significant transition as a result of continuing uncertainty over future resource availability and major changes to the legislative and regulatory framework governing both State and private indigenous forests. Over the last 50 years, the industry moved from a dominant position to a small, specialist industry, the result of diminishing supplies of natural forest timber. The total annual timber harvest from natural forests declined from about 500,000 m3 in the mid-1970s to approximately 82 000 m3 currently. About 30 000 m3 come from State-owned forests on the South Island West Coast and the balance from private and Mâori-owned forests.
A large number of generally small individual mills, over half of which are portable mills, process the natural forest timber harvest. Approximately 180 mills qualified for the 1992-1996 allowable cut. This allocation enables the mills to either progressively wind-down or to use alternative timber sources. However, about 260 mills are currently registered, many of which process very small volumes of timber. Despite the consistently high number of registered mills, many have ceased processing indigenous timber. Six larger companies now process logs from natural forests into veneer and other products.
There is a small but high-value export market for natural forest timber. The Forests Act restricts commercial exports of indigenous timber to rimu and beech sawnwood. Finished products made from any species can also be exported. Sawnwood exports totaled about 1 900 m3 in 1996 and 1 700 m3 in 1997.
POLICY ENVIRONMENT CONCERNING THE FORESTRY SECTOR
Historic context of policy development
After the mid-1800s, European settlers substantially cleared natural forests in the lowlands for farming. Forests were considered an obstacle to agricultural development and land clearance priorities dominated Government policy until nearly 1920. Much of the land initially cleared was converted to pastures. Substantial areas of forest were simply destroyed by fire. Later, commercial logging also occurred. Early exploitative timber trade was for the sought-after kauri used in shipbuilding. There were early efforts to assess the remaining resource and impose timber-harvesting standards. These efforts were coupled with experimental planting of non-indigenous species to offset predicted supply shortfalls from depleted natural forests. The Europeans also released non-indigenous domestic and feral mammals into forest areas. Wild populations of deer, goats, pigs, mustelids and Australian brush-tailed possum caused widespread damage to forests, and reduction and loss of native bird species.
As forests were progressively converted, calls increased to restrict the uncontrolled felling, burning, and clearing of forests. The first legislation regulating access to forests and restricting the use of fire was passed in the 1870s. In the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, there was further regulation to set aside steep forests on the watersheds above agricultural land. However, clearing forests for agriculture remained the main policy priority.
Early forest policy development
Resource surveys in 1909 and a Royal Commission on Forestry in 1913 led to the recommendations for climatic reserves in river headwaters, standards for timber measurement and sale, and forest classification. The Commission noted the slow growth of the timber species and also noted the damage by introduced animals.
In 1920, the Government established the State Forest Service and formulated the first New Zealand forest policy dealing with timber sales control, the setting of stumpage rates, forward planning, survey of resources, and management of protection forests. These measures were implemented under the fourth Forests Act passed in 1921. The fifth Forests Act passed in 1949 detailed Forest Service responsibilities, including the identification and designation of protection forests, and measures for managing large areas of soil and watershed protection forests.
Planted forest development
The establishment of planted forests with fast-growing non-indigenous softwood species in the 1920s and 1930s by the State, and parallel programs by private companies, sought to offset future timber supply shortfalls that were predicted in 1913.
By the 1950s, harvests from maturing planted forests increased and their annual timber production overtook the natural forest cut. Further State-funded planting occurred during the second planting boom of the 1960s and early 1970s. Concurrently, the Forest Service began to review the options for future larger scale and regional processing of the planted forest wood resource.
Issues that lead to logging bans as a conservation measure
The issues that led to the sequence of logging restrictions gained prominence in the early 1970s, although their onset can be traced to earlier forest policies. Once the first logging restrictions were invoked during the 1970s, the growing public disquiet over natural forest management drove the restrictions that followed.
The issues that lead to the logging restrictions can be grouped into four distinct time periods:
Natural forest policy change and conservation concerns prior to 1970
The National Forest Survey, a nation-wide survey of natural forests conducted by the Forest Service, commenced in 1946. It was completed in 1955 and provided information on the characteristics, extent, and timber volumes of remaining natural forests throughout New Zealand. The survey results confirmed predictions that the natural forest resources were rapidly declining under the prevailing harvesting rate, particularly on the North Island. Although there was increasing use of timber from maturing planted forests, the Forest Service policy during the 1950s and 1960s focused on conserving natural forest timber resources through monitoring and control of timber sales. A major change to forest management at that time was hampered by timber sale commitments and continuing Government price controls on natural forest timber. The controls were maintained to ensure that timber would continue to be freely available for house construction.
Events in the 1970s
By the 1970s, the public interest in management of natural forests was increasing and it influenced subsequent forest policies. Public involvement at a national level was a relatively new development, although public protest in earlier years led to the 1952 preservation of remnant kauri forests at Waipoua Forest on the North Island. By the time a number of multiple-use, sustainability, and other policies for State-owned natural forests gained official acceptance in the 1970s, public concerns about forest conservation had also gained momentum. Public protest was directed particularly at the practice of replanting logged forestland with introduced pine species. Well-organized and informed groups opposed the Government policies. These groups argued the case for forest conservation on ecological, aesthetic, and recreational-use grounds.
The forest policy changes of the late 1970s and 1980s reflected the changing and turbulent political climate and popular support for forest conservation. The Government was faced with conflicting goals. On one hand, there were logging contract commitments and timber price controls, reflecting a legacy of priority on timber production. On the other hand, the contemporary thinking favored forest sustainability that would in turn require a reduction in wood-processing levels. Pressure emerged, both within the Government and publicly, for increased forest preservation and the designation of prominent forest areas as national parks.
The policy goals of the period were generally oriented toward finding solutions to land-use conflicts. Thus, the Government moved to close out existing logging contracts, reduce timber cuts, and impose logging moratoria. In addition, it published forest management plans and sought public input in developing the plans. Logging restrictions during the period were primarily the result of public campaigns mounted to prevent further logging in specific State-owned natural forests on the West Coast and the central North Island.
Public opinion hardened after the announcement of the 1973 beech project that proposed major industrial processing of timber from the extensive beech forests of the West Coast and Southland. It included proposals to convert substantial areas of logged beech forests to pine on the basis that the level of processing could not be supported in the future by natural forest growth alone. The overall beech forest scheme, and especially the conversion proposals, attracted strong and well-organized public opposition and generally set the course for the following years of debate. The proposals themselves disclosed some of the priorities of the time and set out the Governments intent to invite commercial proposals to utilize the beech forests in Southland and the West Coast regions. The Governments approval of the scheme reflected pressure for regional development through wise land-use but with the fullest consideration given to all objections raised.
For example, the proposal stated:
While the Government recognizes the genuine concern expressed by conservation organizations and many individuals it has concluded that with the environmental constraints originally incorporated by the Forest Service, and others put forward by the Minister of the Environment, the proposals present an opportunity for wise use of forest land and resources.And further:
Both schemes have the potential to contribute greatly to the development of the regions. Social considerations have a big bearing in the Governments decision.By the time the Management Policy for New Zealands Indigenous State Forests was published in 1977, the increased emphasis given to conserving and managing natural forests was evident. The period of change and uncertainty was also evident. The 1977 Policy stated, for example:
It [the Policy] recognizes that indigenous forests can fulfill a range of desirable purposes and that these need to be defined for specific areas.The 1977 New Zealand Indigenous Forest Policy sought to realign forest management with a stated objective of perpetuating indigenous forests both as natural forests and as managed stands. The policy also provided for greater public participation in forest planning, sustainable management, identification of scientific reserves, and multiple use. However, it explicitly retained the option of clearfelling where land shortages necessitate the development for planted forests.
Unless the need is adequately demonstrated, clearing of indigenous forest will not be practiced.
It gives much more emphasis to maintaining indigenous forest as such, although modified in some cases, leaving options open for management decisions in accord with circumstances prevailing in the future.
The object of management of State indigenous forests shall, in general be to perpetuate indigenous forests both as natural forests and as managed stands.
In 1978, separate policies for forests on the central North Island and the West Coast were formulated. These were based on the principles set out in the 1977 policy, but dealt with specific regional issues.
In 1977, environmental groups presented the Maruia Declaration, a public petition carrying 341 159 signatures, to the Parliament. The petition set out the groups forest conservation objectives. It became the basis for a continuing public campaign against natural forest logging until the major forest administration changes following the 1984 general election. While not an expression of Government policy of the time, the petition nevertheless illustrated the gulf between the official policy and the goals of the environmental movement at that time.
The six principles set out in the Declaration were:
1. Native forests, wherever they remain, need recognition and protection in law.The Governments initial reaction to the Maruia Declaration was relatively low key but the proposals endured to become incorporated in some policy changes of the 1980s. Specific policy goals were developed during the 1981 political campaign. These were further reinforced in policies of the Government elected in 1984 and the subsequent administrations policy changes made in 1987.
2. The wholesale burning of indigenous forests and wildlife has no place in a civilized society.
3. The logging of virgin forests should be phased out by 1978.
4. Our remaining publicly owned native forests should be placed in the hands of an organization that has a clear and undivided responsibility to protect them.
5. To reduce commercial pressures on native forests, the growing of fine quality exotic and native timbers on land not presently forested should be given encouragement.
6. It is prudent to be conservative in our consumption of these forest products, especially newsprint and packaging paper, which make heavy demands on our precious resources of land, energy and water.
Political changes in the 1980s
The 1980s are regarded as a political and policy watershed for New Zealand. Past events had strongly shaped the decisions made and the future course of forestry thereafter. The role of the State in forestry was dominant before 1987. The New Zealand Forest Service had jurisdiction over the Government-planted forests and carried out an array of multiple-use management roles for natural forests and forest research. Other agencies involved in the management of State natural forests included the Department of Lands and Survey, which controlled farm development and farm leasehold on State lands, national parks, scenic reserves and other unallocated Crown lands; the latter often including forested lands. The New Zealand Wildlife Service within the Department of Internal Affairs also managed habitat reserves, protected species, and freshwater fisheries.
Concerns that drove the 1980s policy changes included:
The 1984 newly elected Government affirmed its policy to halt logging in North Island forests and extend protection to all other natural forests. The Government also committed to restructuring the entire Government administration of natural forests.
In 1985 the Commission for the Environment reviewed the legislation, policies and natural forests management issues and concluded:
The 1987 Government restructuring of forest agencies dissolved the Forest Service, and Lands and Survey Departments. It also set up new agencies: the Department of Conservation (DOC) established under the Conservation Act of 1987, the Ministry of Forestry, which assumed the role of a policy advisory department, and the Ministry for the Environment, instituted under the Environment Act of 1986, dealing with broad national environmental policy.
The change resulted in the conversion of most State-owned natural forests to protected area status. Production shifted to planted forests then held by the New Zealand Forestry Corporation. Since 1990, only very limited volumes of timber were removed from State-owned natural forests by Timberlands West Coast Limited (TWC) - a State-owned enterprise.
The post-1987 administrative structure is characterized by a strong separation between fully protected forests and timber production. A fundamental shift in the role of Government in 1987 included the phasing-out of the State from management and development of the planted forests and a series of restrictive measures specifically aimed at logging in natural forests.
After the 1987 changes, the Government began developing a broader policy for natural forests with the objective of maintaining or enhancing, in perpetuity, the area of indigenous forest through protection, sustainable management or reforestation with indigenous species. The policy sought to cover ownership through controls and positive incentives for private owners to conserve and protect their forests or sustainably manage them. Provisions were also made for accords, exchanges and export controls.
Following the separation of forestry functions and the establishment of full conservation management under the DOC in 1987, a further review focused on private natural forests. These forests had been unaffected by the legislative changes although they included a high proportion of lowland forest types which were under-represented in protected areas. The Government thus considered a forest policy covering both State and private natural forests, in conjunction with the proposed Resource Management Act. The 1989 policy framework was based on the following key principles:
Considerations included Mâori land values, dealing with uncontrolled woodchip felling (as was occurring on some private forestland), future specialist timber supply, lack of forest information, and the prospect of increased timber imports potentially required to meet the continuing demand for high-quality wood products. The proposed policy contemplated provisions for sustainable management that allowed timber production but controlled unsustainable felling and export, and incentives for conservation of private forests. A forest policy was announced in June 1990 and a further discussion paper was prepared that covered a broad set of desired outcomes related to planted and natural forests.
In response to the public submissions sought on this policy, and the increasing public opposition to the chipping and export of beech forests from private land, the Government imposed an interim ban on the export of unsustainably harvested timber and woodchips in 1990, with the intention of introducing legislation to replace the export ban. Due to a change in the Government in 1990, the policy did not progress further until the Forests Act was subsequently passed in 1993.
The Forest Heritage Fund (later renamed the Nature Heritage Fund) and Nga Whenua Rahui arose from the 1990 policy development. These funds were established to enable covenanted or purchased protection of private natural forests.
CURRENT FOREST POLICY AND LEGISLATION IN RELATION TO NATURAL FOREST MANAGEMENT
Statutes that directly or indirectly affect natural forest management (Table 2) can be broadly divided into legislation related to:
Table 2. Summary of legislation currently applicable to natural forests in New Zealand
Land tenure category
Conservation Act, Resource Management Act (RMA), Reserves Act,
National Parks Act, Wildlife Act, Wild Animal Control Act
State-owned production natural forests managed by
RMA, State-owned Enterprises Act
Private natural forests
Forests Act, RMA, Biosecurity Act
Legislation covering these forests includes the Conservation Act of 1987 that governs the operation of the DOC. The DOC manages the bulk of State-owned natural forests, approximately 4.9 million ha, under the Conservation Act of 1987. These forests are located in national and forest parks, reserves and conservation areas and other protected natural forests. The key role for DOC is management of the protected natural forests that includes both the long-established reserve and national park systems and the additional lands conserved by the 1987 reforms.
In a broader context, the Government of the 1990s developed policies and strategies to protect and enhance New Zealands environment. These are based on:
The Environment 2010 Strategy brings together these principles in the broad context of the biophysical environment. This includes urban and rural environments, commercial primary production based on introduced species and natural species biodiversity, protection from and control of pests and diseases, and social and heritage issues of the Mâori. The strategy emphasizes sustainable land management that recognizes issues such as hill erosion and protection of biological diversity.
A number of international initiatives relating to forests and the environment also drive New Zealands environmental policy. This includes initiatives relating to climate change, international conservation of biodiversity, and sustainable management of forests. The current Government has broadly followed similar policies although it has moved to strengthen environmental and biodiversity conservation aspects of its environmental policy.
In addition to management of the protected conservation estates, the Government also introduced the Nature Heritage Fund and Nga Whenua Rahui schemes to assist private owners of natural forests to enter into voluntary protection agreements with the Government. Other voluntary covenanting schemes have been made between private landowners and the Government-funded Queen Elizabeth II National Trust. Lease or management contracts are also arranged through the DOC. Private land protection arrangements currently cover over 300,000 ha.
Management of natural forests subject to commercial timber
Two key pieces of legislation govern the modification or clearance of natural forests. These include the Indigenous [natural] Forest Provisions of the Forests Act of 1949 and the Resource Management Act (RMA) of 1991.
Indigenous Forest Provisions of the Forests Act of 1949
The Indigenous Forest Provisions of the Forests Act of 1949, inserted by amendment in 1993, apply to about 1.3 million ha of private natural forests and about 12 000 ha of State-owned forests that remain available for timber production. The Act also restricts exports of wood products from natural forest timbers. This provision largely replaces a previous export ban imposed in 1990.
The Act restricts milling to only the harvest of timber under sustainable forest management and requires mills wishing to cut natural forest timber to be registered. The Act provided a transitional four-year period of harvesting from 1992 to 1996 based on the mills pre-legislation cutting levels so that the industry could adjust to the change in supply. The Act offers some opportunity for landowners to benefit from timber production and provides for a continuing role for specialist timber species. However, it also imposed specific restrictions, including explicit prescriptions for the sustainable management of natural forest timber species. For landowners wishing to harvest timber, the Act requires the preparation and approval of sustainable forest management plans. Less elaborate approvals can be obtained but only for lower timber harvest levels.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry administers the Acts provisions. The approval process requires a forest owner to provide documentation and information to demonstrate how timber production (volumes, harvesting methods, rate of cut and other silvicultural information) and, non-timber natural values, will be managed. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry also consults in each case with the DOC, which in turn may request amendments to the plan or provision for reserves. An approved plan under the Forests Act is registered against the land ownership title.
The Act also provides for sustainable forest management permits, which require less detailed approval documentation but restrict the cut. Timber can also be taken for personal use and to salvage dead and dying trees, and under other specific circumstances, when the forests need to be cleared. Some forests exempted from the Forests Act include:
Further amendments to the Forests Act are currently before a Parliamentary Select Committee. These proposed additional reforms seek significant changes to the Forests Act. They include the liberalization of the current export restrictions to allow export of any forest product provided it originates from sustainably managed forests. The reforms also propose the removal of exemptions for State-owned natural forests on the West Coast. The changes to the Act mark a settling-in period, increasing public confidence that forest management under the Act can meet the sustainable forest management requirements without the additional fetter of export restrictions. The amendments reflect a move to simplicity and equity under the Act.
Resource Management Act (RMA)
The Resource Management Act of 1991 promotes sustainable management of natural and physical resources. The RMA is administered by local Governments through district and regional plans. The Act follows a process of plan preparation, public participation and submissions, and implementation through regional and district councils. Restrictions on natural forest management for timber harvest can be imposed by restrictive rules arising from this process.
Accords, in the form of negotiated and signed agreements between several parties of opposing interests, gained some prominence in New Zealand in the late 1990s. These can be locally focused and typically embody agreement on specific conservation issues, yet they also add greater certainty to forest use and management. They may involve Government or only non-government parties. Two of the most prominent accords relating forest conservation are the 1986 West Coast Accord and the 1991 New Zealand Forest Accord.
The 1986 West Coast Accord and the New Zealand Forest Accord
The 1986 West Coast Accord sought to end previous years of debate between disparate parties over the use of West Coast forests. The Government-brokered Accord is an agreement between a number of regional, community, industrial, and environmental interest groups. The Accord defined an agreed-upon allocation of State-owned natural forests to be managed by DOC. It also defined forests allocated for timber production under sustainable management and forests allocated for a limited period of unsustainable logging to maintain local sawmills. The production forest was exempted from the Forests Act and includes about 130,000 ha of State-owned forest managed for production on behalf of the crown by TWC.
The New Zealand Forest Accord is an agreement between
non-government forest industry and environmental organization representatives.
Members of New Zealands Forest Owners Association and several
conservation groups signed the agreement in 1991. It recognizes the important
heritage values of natural forests and the need for their conservation,
maintenance, and enhancement. The Accord acknowledges the role of commercial
planted forests and the need for protection and conservation of natural forests.
It sets protocols and defined limits for establishing planted forests on natural
forest areas. The Accord also supports the scope for sustainable management of
natural forests to harvest timber and produce added-value solid wood products in
Following the November 1999 national election, the incoming Government affirmed a policy that logging in State-managed natural forests on the West Coast would be banned. This position had been published in the Labor Party pre-election manifesto and reflects the Governments view that remaining State-owned natural forests should be fully protected. The previous Government was already implementing a gradual harvest reduction to sustainable levels. This would have reduced timber production to about 122 000 ha and replaced rimu harvests with beech.
The Government has already halted proposals to harvest timber from beech forests managed by TWC. The beech proposal included about 80 000 ha of forests with a proposed annual roundwood yield of about 60 000 m3. The Government has proposed measures to phase out harvests of rimu under existing contracts and has introduced legislation to cancel the West Coast Accord. However, the Government has also agreed to support the continuing scope of the Forests Act by allowing private forest owners to harvest timber under Forests Act approvals.
Impacts of current forest policy and legislation on development of wood industries and the production of wood products
Following the passage of the Forests Act amendments in 1993, the natural forest timber industry underwent major adjustments. During the 1992-1996 transitional phase, the industry positioned itself to compete for scarce forest resources, adapt to other species, cut for grade, and turn to smaller capacity and portable mills, with increasing interest in veneering and other value-added processing.
Markets for natural forest timbers include traditional domestic users such as the furniture makers. Specialist users such as woodturners, continue to seek podocarp timber. A great reduction in supply is likely as stocks from previous forest cuttings get depleted. There is also a market for products of recycled timber. Stumps are exported and manufactured locally into items such as tables. Veneer from the increasingly expensive premium grades is also being sought to take advantage of the decorative and popular indigenous timbers.
Until the late 1990s there was a small hardwood chip export market based on Southland beech species. This market is likely to be replaced by supplies of planted hardwood (Eucalyptus spp.) coming on-stream in Southland. Beech timber has been sought for traditional uses such as brush handles. Red beech from sustainable forest management areas has gained some localized market acceptance for both decorative and structural uses.
The uncertainty over future supply has elicited a mixed response from manufacturers. Some specialist processors are adapting to capitalize on the small volume, high-value, end-use markets. Others are waiting to see the effect of the logging ban on prices and supplies. The State supply of rimu, substantially reduced in the last decade by policy measures, has provided a steady supply together with uncertain cutting rates from private forests and unsustainable cut from Mâori-owned forests. It is apparent that the rimu market niche will change as the processing sector either reduces in scale or finds rimu substitutes or alternative timber sources. In May 2000, the Government announced that it proposes to end rimu harvests on State-owned natural forests on 31 March 2002, allowing a lead time of less than two years for the rimu-using processors to find alternative supplies.
Effects of current policy on conservation values
The passing of the 1987 Conservation Act resulted in the protection of approximately 4.9 million ha of State-owned natural forests in much of the hill and high country. The quality of conservation measures relating to the DOC-managed conservation estate relies very much on the status of the resources and the actual implementation of programs by the Department.
The 1987 legislation did not cover the 1.3 million-ha of privately owned natural forests, which include much of the lowland forest remnants throughout New Zealand. The conservation of these forests is therefore achieved through the covenanting arrangements, sustainable management, and representative area provisions under the Forests Act of 1949 and provisions for protection through local Government council plans under the RMA.
Forest clearing for chipwood production occurred in some privately-owned beech forests in the late 1980s. The 1990 export ban sought to curtail this trade. The transitional provisions under the 1993 Forests Act amendments also resulted in unsustainable cutting in private forests as mills and forest owners ensured that they reached their allowable timber volumes during the limited period provided.
Provisions in the 1986 West Coast Accord also allowed for over-cutting4 in specified areas of the State-owned natural forests of the region. Current policy provides for all unsustainable cutting in State-owned natural forests to cease by the end of 2000.
The approximately 36 000 ha of Mâori-owned natural forests are exempted under the Forests Act and current policy provides for negotiated settlements with the owners to either grant the forests full protection or to sustainably manage them. The Government has already arranged for full protection of some of these areas through specific compensation deals.
The Governments policy emphasis has been to limit the loss of natural forest areas. However, there is currently a shift towards measures to enhance biodiversity conservation. The Government is reviewing a range of measures through the Biodiversity Strategy to improve and expand the quality, area, appreciation, and understanding of key natural habitats (including natural forests). The scope of the strategy relates to both State-owned and private forests.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES FOR FOREST CONSERVATION SOUGHT THROUGH LOGGING RESTRICTIONS
The goals and objectives for forest conservation were initially a response to the strong and nationally focused public concern since the early 1970s. The public campaigns, the Governments political and policy responses, changes to forest administration and post-1987 policy development all served to shape the major goals for conservation. Some fundamental goals have endured as the leading issues throughout the period. These include:
Government policy after 1984 strongly reflected the broad public concerns of earlier years, resulting in administrative restructuring and the emergence of fully protected natural forests. Subsequent goals reflected similar conservation issues but were directed at the balance of private and State-owned natural forests considered still at risk. The thrust of post-1987 Government policy has been to maintain and enhance the remaining natural forests by halting major forest clearance and phasing out unsustainable milling.
The Governments stated goals in relation to the operation and outputs of the DOC, relating to State-owned conservation lands, including natural forests, are:
POLICY, ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS
Overview of the logging restriction measures
Two groups of measures specifically restricted commercial logging: a) the pre-1970 West Coast Accord, and b) four policy and legislative measures from 1987 up to the present (Table 3).
While each measure is identified separately, these restrictions are part of a complex span of forest policy history in New Zealand. This period includes several Government changes that resulted in significant shifts in policy. The 1984 election resulted in the 1987 administrative changes. The 1990 election probably curtailed some policy developments of the latter 1980s, and the 1999 election resulted in the most recent decision of the Government to phase out remaining logging on State-owned natural forests.
Table 3. Measures to restrict commercial logging as a conservation strategy since 1970 and area of natural forest affected in New Zealand
Forest area affected (ha)
State forest administered by the former Forest
Logging moratoria, selection harvest, and forest zoning
State forest administered by the former Forest
Forest permanently reserved under gazetted forest sanctuaries,
ecological areas and other dedicated reserves.
State forest administered by the former Forest
Transferred to reserve, or potential reserve, under the West
State-owned natural forest not already within national park or
reserve or in watershed protection
Transferred to full protection within the conservation estate
under the Conservation Act 1987.
Private and State forests
Export ban on unsustainably milled timber and woodchips - as
interim measure until legislation was in place.
1 465 000
Private and State forests
Timber milling constrained by sustainable management
provisions of Forests Act 1949.
1 312 000
West Coast State-owned production forests
To be removed from timber production under current Government
Note: The areas listed are not cumulative as a number of the separate measures in many cases applied to common areas of natural forests. For example, State-owned forest areas in the pre-1987 measures were also affected by the 1987 changes. Again, the forests affected by the 1990 export ban were also subject to the later 1993 Forests Act measures.The restrictions generally applied to forest practices, although the export ban was an indirect measure to limit the scope for unsustainable commercial milling of timber for export. Other policies also served to limit logging in natural forests such as the RMA and the 1991 New Zealand Forest Accord.
Through the 1986 West Coast Accord, the Government withheld decisions on the future of about 300 000 ha of forests in the remote South West Coast area and 28 000 ha of beech forests in Southland. In 1988, 12 000 ha of the Southland forest were allocated to production, and in 1989, the South West Coast area was placed in the conservation estate.
Approximately 37 000 ha of forests on Mâori lands and 130 000 ha of West Coast Accord production forests were exempted under the Forests Act. The Government subsequently negotiated protection for an estimated 9 000 ha of natural forests with the Mâori owners in 1995 and 1999.
The Forests Act amendment introduced in 1993 established specific controls on commercial timber harvesting, milling and exporting. The Act sought to establish a balance between a limited sustainable timber harvest and the retention of natural forest values. Sustainable forest management is defined in the Act as:
The management of an area of indigenous forest in a way that maintains the ability of the forest growing on that land to continue to provide a full range of products and amenities in perpetuity while retaining the forests natural values.Debate at the time of the Acts introduction focused on the rights of property owners and their responsibilities to ensure long-term conservation of forests on their lands. The Act exempted some forest categories including forests on Mâori land, which had been set aside under legislation in 1906 in recognition of lands taken by the Crown during the nineteenth century. The Act also exempted State-owned production forests under the West Coast Accord, managed by TWC under a separate Deed of Appointment with the Government. The Act provided transitional allowable timber volumes to mills cutting natural forest timber to enable a progressive reduction in cut.
After the end of transitional measures in 1996, the Act restricted export to specific sawn timber dimensions of two species, beech and rimu. The export restrictions sought to limit woodchip felling which generally resulted in near-clearfelling. The Act reflected a policy of encouraging low-volume, but high-value, specialty use of timber for the domestic market.
The Acts provisions are very prescriptive for timber management, but are not explicit regarding methods and limits for sustainable management of non-timber values. There is continuing debate over the extent to which timber harvest can modify the forests without compromising their natural value.
The Forests Act was amended several times but did not substantively alter the key restrictions on landowners, mills and exporters. However, further proposed amendments would allow export of timber provided it is from approved sustainable management operations. Amendments to remove exemptions under the Act have also been proposed. This would include removing the exemption on State-owned natural forests under the West Coast Accord. This exemption was created because of the existing arrangements (including unsustainable logging) provided for under the Accord when the Forests Act was amended in 1993. The exemption generated tensions over the different rules applying to State-owned forests. Nevertheless, TWCs work on refining techniques in sustainable forest management is considered by many to be at least up to the standard achieved on private forests under the Forests Act.
In 2000, the Government considered that State-managed natural forests have a key role in conservation and moved to halt all remaining logging in these areas. The forests affected by this policy were all within the West Coast region. The forests included those where unsustainable logging had continued for a specified period in the interests of the regional economy under the West Coast Accord. The new policy also included the intent to phase out even the sustainable management harvest. Forests under this regime include about 9,500 ha of podocarp forests that were designated for sustainable management in 1984.
Supporters of sustainable management argue that there are fundamental differences between the two categories - unsustainable logging (as a transitional accommodation), and sustainable forest management. Nevertheless, the policy change is driven by the Governments view that the State-managed West Coast forests are of sufficient conservation importance to warrant their total exclusion from logging.
The policy change will effectively lead the Government to remove itself from any involvement in production forestry, although it continues to support sustainable forest management provisions which regulate harvest on about 1.3 million ha of private lands under the Forests Act. The policy change has also fueled the public debate. Much of the pro-logging support is from the affected West Coast region. However, there is also support from some representatives of the scientific community for the recent work on sustainable management of natural forests by TWC. Some argue that the Government should at least offer the opportunity for critical review and discussion of the TWC work.
Role of the West Coast Accord
The West Coast Accord was seen at the time of its signing as a solution to the earlier years of protracted debate over the regions forests. However, recent court action has resulted from challenges to the Government by West Coast interests to uphold Accord provisions that allowed the overcut, or unsustainable logging of rimu from part of the region (see footnote 3). This drew judgments that the Accord was contractual in nature and its main provisions binding on the Government as a party to the Accord. However, portions or recitals under the Accord were also judged to be matters related to Government policy and not bound by contract. Following the court decision, the Government changed the policy to shorten the period of the overcut provision in the Accord.
The litigation by the West Coast Accord parties and Government policy changes subsequent to the agreement raise questions about how long such an agreement, involving the Government as a party, can remain effective. Despite its importance in 1986 as an agreement between disparate parties on issues of the time, the provision under the Accord for production natural forests is now counter to Government policy following its decision to phase-out logging on the Accord forests. The Government is, therefore, currently proposing to cancel the Accord.
Consistency of the logging ban with New Zealands positions on international agreements
New Zealand takes an active role in a number of international forums including the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, Montreal Process, and International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). The main thrust of the countrys position is mainly to emphasize New Zealands dependence on timber largely from planted forests and to ensure the conservation of remaining natural forests.
New Zealand has argued strongly that its planted forests, natural forests that are not already fully protected (including those subject to the Forests Act) and State-managed forests under sustainable management are in accordance with international agreements. In general, the standard of sustainable management sought in the natural forests is well within guidelines of international conventions.
The decision to cease logging in the natural forests under the West Coast Accord reflects the Governments view that despite the development of environmentally sound timber harvesting techniques, the uniqueness of these forests warrants their full protection.
Effectiveness of the timing of implementing the logging ban
The changes that occurred in the1980s followed a protracted period of closures of mills dependent on wood from the natural forests. So, although a large State-owned area was transferred to full protection under the Conservation Act of 1987, the impacts on the industry were less severe than might be expected. (Figure 11).
Despite changes to its State forests, previous rationalization of mill cuts and the agreement under the 1986 West Coast Accord had helped the West Coast region establish its future level of timber supply when decisions on apportioning forests to full protection and production were made.
The 1990 export ban, applying to both State and private forests, was introduced relatively quickly to restrict clearfelling for woodchip export. With no progressive introduction, the Government provided compensation in proven cases of frustrated existing contracts. On the other hand, private forests under the Forests Act Amendment of 1993 were granted transitional allowable cuts based on the individual quotas of mills. In giving the industry a chance to adjust to lower cuts, the landowners also had a chance to sell their timber before the full sustainable forest management provisions came fully into force. The relatively large volume of timber produced concurrently from the State-owned forests cushioned the effect of the reductions from private forest milling.
Figure 11. Timber production from New Zealands natural forests, 1978-1989
The allowable cut mechanism provided registered mills a volume of timber over a four-year period equivalent to two years cut in a preceding period. Many mills took advantage of the provision, with close to 400 mills being registered, many of them portable mills with small individual cuts. Progressive reductions also applied to production from the remaining State-owned West Coast forests managed by TWC (Figure 12).
Figure 12. Production from TWC and private forests in New Zealand, 1994-1999
The role of planted forests as a substitute wood supply
The prospect that fast-growing introduced tree species grown in planted forests would, in large part, substitute for a dwindling supply of natural forest timbers was known after the first review of the forest resource in 1913. At that time, the known slow growth rates of native softwoods, coupled with the rapid rates of forest removal, hastened the concern to provide for alternative future timber supplies.
By the time concern over natural forest depletion had grown significantly, the place of planted forests was well established and New Zealand was beginning a second planting boom, which was building on the successes of the maturing first rotation. By 1970, about 470,000 ha of planted forests (State and private) had been established and roundwood production from planted forests was about 6.8 million m3, or six and a half times the production from natural forests.
Over several decades, planted forest timber progressively replaced the natural forest cut (see Figures 13 and 14). Under the pre-1987 forest administration, substitute volumes were made available through the Government timber sale process. The relatively large volumes of planted forest timber easily replaced the reduced natural cuts in most areas. Planting targets established and implemented in separate regions of New Zealand by the Government from the late 1960s ultimately provided a replacement resource in most areas.
After the sale of its planted forest timber in the late 1980s,6 the Government was no longer involved in selling timber to processing mills. Large companies with planted forests began to supply their own processing outlets. Other growers, including those owners of small- and medium-sized forests, have continued to supply other mills, including the regionally-based mills that previously relied on natural forest timber.
Enforcement of logging restrictions
The Forests Act provides for penalties imposed for illegal cutting of timber from private lands, which are administered by the Indigenous Forest Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The DOC has powers under the Conservation Act 1987 to prosecute for the removal of timber from conservation lands. There have been isolated incidents of timber trespass on public lands and private forests. The Indigenous Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has successfully prosecuted six illegal timber trespasses since the Forests Act came into force. The prospect of substantial or continuing illegal trade in wood products is considered unlikely on private land within New Zealand. Export restrictions are controlled through approval provisions and port controls.
Additional measures, resources and capability building
Policy changes to halt State-owned forest timber supply will put pressure on private forest resources as current mills and processors investigate new sources of supply of specialty timbers. Capability building is likely to be needed to ensure that adequate and consistent supplies of preferred species are available from these alternative sources, which will probably include imported timber, private natural forests, and planted forests in New Zealand. There is also a developing and buoyant market for recycled timber, although the life of this resource is unknown. At present, there is little detailed information about New Zealands planted species of alternative hardwoods and other specialty species. Private growers on a farm-forest scale undertake most planting of these species. Research on management and processing of these species is limited.
Timber products from natural forests
Natural forest timber production declined steadily after a peak in 1953. The main output of milling has been sawn timber for a range of purposes including construction and finishing. Softwoods from the natural forest have long been favored over hardwoods for their range of utility and finishing purposes, including the popular podocarp species: rimu, totara, and matai. Tawa and beech are popular for specialist and finishing purposes. Beech has also been sought as hardwood pulp, principally for export markets.
Veneer production has been less significant. In recent years, veneer has been produced by a small number of mills located primarily in urban areas. The increasing price and scarcity of timber during the 1990s has resulted in better prospects for veneer, particularly for display end-uses.
Other uses for natural forest timber are limited, although some trade in export logs arose during the 1970s. Fuelwood is sourced from the natural forests, but harvesting operations are generally small in size and favor native hardwoods such as manuka and kanuka.
Natural forest areas available for production
In 2000, the area available for natural forest timber production comprised about 142 000 ha of State-owned forests, including both logged and unlogged areas. This area will be reduced to about 12 000 ha following the removal of 130 000 ha of West Coast forests from production. The total area of private natural forests is about 1.3 million ha, but much of the area is not accessible or has been placed under protection. Approximately 670 000 ha of private forests were previously considered potentially available for production. Currently only about 124 000 ha are considered economically accessible for timber production.
Natural forest roundwood removals
Roundwood logged from natural forests is about 90 000 m3 annually. About one-third of this is harvested from State-owned forests on the West Coast. Half is harvested from Mâori lands not subject to sustainability restrictions. The balance is harvested from Forests Act-approved cuts on private land.
An overall downward trend in the harvest of natural forests since 1995 is the result of the reduction in the harvest from State-owned forests in 1995, and the reduced cut on private lands at the close of the Forests Act transitional period in July 1996. The supply from private lands is now entirely from the Forests Act approvals. There has been a steady increase in the area of private forests approved for harvest under the Forests Act. Still, the supply from private forests is only about 14 percent of the total roundwood production derived from natural forests.
Production of roundwood from natural forest has been declining steadily over a much longer period, in part largely due to the substitution of planted forest resources from the maturing plantings established in the 1930s. Later reductions, however, can be attributed to logging restrictions on State-owned forests in the 1970s and 1980s and on all forest tenures after 1987 (Figure 13).
Most natural forest timber is processed into sawn timber. Veneer takes a small proportion from the increasingly expensive premium grades. In recent years, some hardwood (beech) has been exported as chipwood.
Current estimated annual production of rough-sawn timber from the natural forests (year ended 31 March 1999) is 50 000 m3, also exhibiting a steady long-term downward trend in volumes produced. The comparison of sawn timber and roundwood shows the former follows a steadier decline over the same period, probably reflecting an eking out of supplies by smaller mills cutting indigenous timber as forest resources diminish (Figure 14).
Figure 13. Roundwood removals from natural and planted forests in New Zealand
Figure 14. Production of rough-sawn timber in New Zealand
Other sources of timber
Restricted supply from the natural forests has generated incentives to obtain timber from other sources. Podocarp stumps salvaged from previously logged forestland produce a small amount of timber for various decorative end uses. Former kauri forests, long buried in wetlands, also provide swamp kauri timber for specialist decorative end-uses. Recycled timber from demolished buildings is a further source generally used in furniture or building renovation materials.
The overall log price has shown a steady and gradual increase. The Forests Act restrictions undoubtedly caused price changes, although these were cushioned by the high timber stocks generated by forest sales towards the end of the transitional period. Evidently, some forest owners sold at lower prices while they were allowed to cut. The supply from State-owned West Coast forest maintained relatively high timber stocks, although prices increased following the reduction in cut from these forests after 1995.
By 1998, prices for processed softwood sawn timber had approximately doubled since the Forests Act came into force in July 1993, with the popular and sought-after rimu costing an average of NZ$2 000 per m3. The price increase has been affected by the premium for high-quality decorative grades. A recent study of rimu prices indicates a consistent increase from 1995 to 2000 as supplies diminished (Figure 15). In comparison, prices for radiata pine have fallen over the same period - a factor of international price trends. This indicates the special market enjoyed by rimu, which is strongly favored by the domestic furniture market.
Figure 15. Comparison of New Zealands rimu price and log supply
Hardwood species comprise about 10 to 12 percent of sawn timber production volumes. Their prices have moved more slowly. Beech timber supplies a small but established niche market, but TWC expanded the market at the end of 1999.
Economics of planted forests
During the 1970s, intensive work was undertaken on existing stands to optimize management of, and the timber production from, radiata pine planted forest. By the 1980s, the economic benefits of planted forests, particularly shorter rotation radiata pine, were well understood. Sophisticated economic modeling techniques, improved knowledge of the benefits of tending, improved quality planting stock, and the increasing availability of higher quality sites (often previously restricted by land-use controls favoring farming), all served to enhance the economic prospects for planted forests. Based on current information from a range of New Zealand sites, radiata pine can achieve average internal rates of return (IRR) of between 6 and 9 percent.
IRR information for other planted forest species such as Douglas fir, cypress, acacia, and eucalyptus suggests that similar returns can be achieved. They require longer rotations than radiata pine and some need good quality sites, but the wood can potentially command premium prices.
Growth rates of natural forest species are comparatively slow. Rotation lengths are generally over 100 years, although research has indicated that on optimum sites beech can be managed successfully from natural regeneration to produce millable trees after 60 years, and in less than 100 years for kauri.
Substitution of planted forest species
Due to their comparatively high productivity, planted forest species have substituted for the natural forest species in many utility and specialty roles. The excellent timber properties of radiata pine were well known and accepted by the construction industry well before restrictions on logging natural forests became prominent. Despite its lack of natural durability, features such as better drying, ease of nailing, development of treatment processes, weight, and handling of radiata timber all served to favor it over natural softwood species in general construction. It is also appropriate for the manufacture of reconstituted wood products, pulp and paper and various engineered solid wood products.
There is little doubt that these features were a strong economic incentive for the construction industry to use radiata pine. Its place as the mainstay utility timber was well established before the price controls maintained by the Government on natural forest species were lifted. In the South Island, however, the use of rimu in construction persisted for a longer period due to its relative abundance and lower prices.
More recent data also indicate that there have been marked changes in the recovery of premium grades of rimu, pointing to a continuing reduction in the use of rimu for construction, and efforts to maximize the amount of timber for high-value display uses. For example, between 1988 and 1995 the percentage of industrial grades reduced, on average, from 50 percent of total recoverable yield to about 5 percent, and display grades increased by a comparable amount.
The annual sustainable cut from planted forests is projected to increase from 17 million m3 in 1999 to over 30 million m3 by 2010. In volume terms, planted forest resources will be more than adequate to meet the declining natural forest cut. More pertinent for New Zealand is the future supply of timber species that can substitute for natural forest timbers.
Role of the private sector in planted forest development
The privatization of State-planted forests after 1987 was undoubtedly facilitated by the existence of an established private sector forest industry. Private planting of radiata pine and other species paralleled the efforts of the State during the first decades of the twentieth century focusing on sites in the central North Island. The area of private planted forests initially exceeded that of the State and through to the 1980s continued to expand, lagging only slightly behind the State during the period. By 1987, private forestry had well-established commercial forest management, processing and marketing practices in place.
Supply shortfall of specialist species
Radiata pine cannot substitute easily for specialist or decorative timber species. There is currently no consistent supply of other planted species to effectively substitute for the sought-after natural forest softwoods.
About 91 percent of the total planted forest area comprises radiata pine and 4.5 percent with Douglas fir. The balance is made up of a range of other softwood and hardwood species, including cypress, eucalypt and acacia, which are potential substitutes for specialty natural forest timbers. However, many existing stands are of variable or uncertain quality and produce inconsistent volumes. For example, cypress is sought for its high-quality decorative finishing characteristics. Quality grades can command high prices although much of the existing mature resource is in poor-quality untended farm shelterbelts.
There is, however, interest among small (farm-scale) and medium-size forest growers in these species with research and management co-operatives targeting improved species, stand management and timber quality. New planting rates have indicated an increase in the percentage of area planted with Douglas fir and eucalypts, especially in the south, due to the activities of a number of overseas companies that are strategically positioning themselves as growers of these species.
Larger companies, which manage the bulk of the existing planted forests, continue to favor radiata pine. The choice of the mainstream species reflects the strong legacy of research, established management knowledge, and current technical developments for the species.
The silvicultural regimes for planted forests are also changing. Some growers perceive the intensive management typically associated with high returns as financially risky. Alternative regimes with minimal tending are possible with the use of genetically modified tree stocks.
There is continuing debate over the need for a more diversified forest estate (in terms of choice of species, silvicultural regime and location) compared to the existing predominantly radiata pine forests. Some argue that a more diversified forest estate may reduce future growing, marketing, and processing risks and uncertainties, creating a potentially more robust and stable industry. The counter argument is that radiata pine provides its own diversity, inherent within its suitability for a wide range of end markets, and that radiata pine is a proven, highly profitable species. By diversifying its forests, New Zealand may actually reduce profitability.
The cessation of State-owned natural forest timber supplies will lead to greater dependence on private land resources or other alternatives. A supply shortfall concerns processors such as furniture makers who have relied on natural forest softwoods, particularly rimu.
Effect of the logging restriction on imported substitutes
The main categories of sawn timber imports are Australian hardwoods and North American softwoods. Only about 18 percent are from Pacific Islands and Southeast Asian sources. Imported sawn timbers generally have specialist applications such as for industrial construction, weatherboards with a natural finish, decorative furniture, paneling, and boat building. Imports of forest products for the year ending June 1998 were valued at NZ$880 million (NZ$830 million in 1997). Current prices for imported sawn timbers, across a range of species, average a little over NZ$1 000 CIF per m3. Specialty pulps, paper, and paperboard accounted for 77 percent of imports.
Import volumes have not changed for five years and there is no evidence of substitution for natural forest timbers as a result of logging restrictions over that period (Table 4). Furniture makers claim, however, that a cut in rimu supply from State-owned forests will lead to import substitution since there is no reliable supply from any other natural species timber source or no suitable alternative domestic species.
Table 4. Volume of New Zealands timber imports (thousand m3)
Year ending 30 June
Logs and poles
Source: Ministry of Agriculture and ForestryTimber processing industry - impacts of logging restrictions
* P = provisional figure
In the 1970s the Government began to rationalize or renegotiate existing long-term contracts for timber supply from State-owned forests. In part, the mounting pressure to conserve the forests and the resulting limits on supply were pushing the Government to encourage the smaller mills with circular-saws to merge with larger capacity bandsaw-equipped mills with drying and finishing capabilities. However, substitution of planted forests and introduction of newer products such as wood-based panels were also factors of change. The limits on timber supply merely hastened the process of inevitable change. In 1954, there were 500 registered sawmills cutting natural forest timber. By 1972, less than 100 of these mills depended solely on natural forest timber.
Mill closures affected the milling-dependant communities of the central North Island, South Island West Coast, and Southland. In some regions, planted forest resources were available to maintain supply, although this was not the case in the West Coast area where the small area of largely immature planted forests meant a continued dependence of the industry on natural forest timbers.
Many significant changes to mills dependant on State-owned natural forests took place when the Government agencies were restructured in the 1980s. The West Coast Accord provided long-term sustained supplies for some remaining mills within the region. It also made additional timber volumes available from unsustainable operations to maintain supply until planted timber was available. However, further restrictions on cutting in the West Coast led to additional mill closures in the late 1980s.
Mills utilizing private forest resources tended to be smaller units. By the late 1980s, the handy portable sawmills were popular for small on-property operations. Sawmill registrations under the Forests Act amendment of 1993 varied between 350 and 400 mills. About two-thirds of these were portable units with small annual quotas.
Current processing capacity includes conventional sawmills and a number of specialized manufacturers producing veneers, components, and other products. In 1998-1999, 82 676 m3 of indigenous logs were milled from all sources (including Forests Act-exempt tenures).
In December 1999, 260 mills were registered under the Forests Act. Approximately 25 percent were fixed mills; the rest were portable mills. Twenty-eight registered sawmills each milled in excess of 100 m3 of logs annually, producing a combined log volume of 79 293 m3, or 96 percent of the total log volume milled. Six companies produce specialist timbers.
On the West Coast, the only region where State-owned forest timber production continued, the levels of cut were adjusted to those specified under the Accord. Currently, there are 16 mills cutting between 500 and 5 000 m3 per year, drawing on both State-owned and private forest resources.
In 1990, TWC assumed management of West Coast State-owned natural forests. Some further cut reductions in the region occurred with the closure of some interim unsustainable operations in softwood milling in 1995. Existing unsustainable operations were scheduled to cease in December 2000. Contracts secured in 1996 by TWC, based on both interim unsustainable and sustainable softwood resources, supply the local mills and specialist manufacturers outside the region.
There is a small but high-value export market for timber from natural forests. Government regulation under the Forests Act restricts the commercial export of indigenous timber to rimu and beech sawn timber. Final products of any species can also be exported. Natural forest sawn timber exports were about 1 100 m3 (NZ$1.2 million FOB) for the year ending 31 March 1996 and 1 900 m3 for 1997 (NZ$1.6 million FOB).
New Zealand furniture makers have voiced concern at the prospect of reduced supplies of rimu, sought for high-quality furniture. The industry relies on an annual supply of 20 000 to 30 000 m3 and considers that securing and maintaining this will be difficult without State-owned forest supplies. The industry also argues that reduced tariff barriers will increase the prospect of competing imports.
Other issues facing the industry
The Forests Act provided transitional allowable cuts for the industry to adjust or exit the business. Many forest owners took advantage of the transition and sold timber. Four years after the transition ended approximately 58 000 m3 of timber were under the Forests Act approval for harvest, covering 52 000 ha on 230 separate private land holdings. The current annual production from these private lands is, however, barely 5 000 m3. The uncertainty of future supply is creating difficulties for processors seeking continuity of supply.
Some processing specialists have updated their equipment for producing veneer. Most express doubts about investment given the uncertainty in supply. Export markets are likely to remain small and specialized. International pressure to ensure green labeling may be a factor. Imported specialty timbers currently compete on price and first stage processors are concerned about this. The extent to which international pressure for sustainable management standards affects these imports is still unclear.
Impact on Government revenue
Government revenues arise from taxation and from income generated from Government assets. The logging restrictions applying to private lands are likely to have resulted in some reduction in tax revenues due to the reduced capacity for forest owners to sell timber. Local Government continues to impose taxes on such lands, but the level varies by location.
TWC pays royalties and dividends (Government Ministers as shareholders). Royalties of NZ$150 000 to NZ$165 000 were paid to the Crown during 1998 and 1999 although no dividend was paid.
Costs of implementing logging restriction
Identifiable costs to the Government include about NZ$4 million in compensation payments for logging restrictions prior to 1987 and about NZ$30 million paid to compensate timber exporters affected by the 1990 export ban. The Government is currently offering NZ$120 million as development assistance to the West Coast region. This coincides with the decision to phase out the State-owned natural forest milling in the region, although the assistance is not regarded as direct compensation. Other measures generally did not include direct payments, although indirect assistance to landowners, in various forms, accompanied the implementation of the 1993 amendments to the Forests Act.
Environmental and conservation implications
The success in achieving protection can be assessed as follows:
Assessing the effectiveness of the pre-1987 measures is difficult because of the administrative changes that followed. There is no way to know with certainty whether or not the logging restrictions applied prior to 1987 would have achieved the degree of forest protection sought under the prevailing administration. Approximately 300 000 ha of State-owned forests had permanent logging bans imposed prior to 1987. These forests later became national parks or similar protected areas and included gazetted forest sanctuaries, ecological areas, and other dedicated reserves and recreation areas. Whether these forests would have had the sustained management input or conservation focus to achieve the objectives cannot be determined precisely.
Approximately 80 000 ha of State-owned production forests were subject to logging restrictions through required changes in harvesting techniques from the time of the 1977 Forest Service Indigenous Forest Policy. Techniques included selection-logging methods and the adoption of zoning to identify harvestable and non-harvestable stands. The impact on protection values is variable and current conditions depend on both harvesting and roading techniques used at the time, as well as forest and soil conditions and the extent to which the forests have recovered. Such areas could be compared with forests subject to earlier clearfelling, although no precise or nationally consistent measures can be applied. Factors such as forest type, species, regeneration rate, influx of introduced weeds and pests affect recovery and current forest condition.
Post-1987 measures covering State-owned forests and their effects
The effectiveness of the post-1987 measures can be reviewed in the context of the DOC management of natural forests, including the estimated 1 million ha of State-owned forests previously having the potential for timber production but subsequently placed under the DOCs administration. Timber production was effectively diverted to planted forests and the 142 000 ha of State natural forests that were set aside for this purpose.
The newly established DOC had a stated mission to conserve the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand under three goals which sought to:
The DOC operates under two broad financial programs concerned with conservation management and science and advocacy. With a single agency managing a total of about 4.9 million ha of State-owned forests, and focusing on conservation management, some key opportunities exist, such as:
The new department was faced with some complex administrative issues. In particular, it had to draw together the conservation functions of three former departments as well as address issues of establishing management systems and identifying tasks under the new Conservation Act.
The 1987 changes can be considered a success in the context of a large and significant area of natural forests being placed in reserve. These areas include the steep land forests, and the lowland protection and former lowland production areas. There is, however, poorer representation of certain lowland forest types more common on lands in private ownership.
Conservation by the DOC has achieved some notable successes. These include the endangered species breeding programs, restoration programs, research, education and a heightened public awareness about natural forest conservation. Other programs include development of the mainland islands, areas where efforts are made to restore natural flora and fauna habitats, and control of introduced pests and weeds. However, some adverse effects continue, notably damage to both forest vegetation and native bird populations by pests and introduced species, particularly the widespread damage caused by the Australian brush-tail opossum.
Post-1987 measures covering private forests and their effects
The Forests Act indigenous forest provisions prohibit unsustainable commercial timber harvest from private forests. The Act is not a land-use control since owners may choose to clear forest for other reasons, although such generally expensive operations are greatly restricted by removal of commercial incentives. Other restrictions on forest clearance or logging are imposed on private forests through the local Government-implemented RMA. Currently 52 000 ha of private natural forests are under Forests Act-approved plans and permits.
Private owners of natural forests can also choose to fully protect their forests through covenanting arrangements such the Queen Elizabeth II Trust, Nature Heritage Funds and Nga Whenua Rahui. Many landowners have taken advantage of the incentives offered to fence and protect forest remnants on their land and currently about 300 000 ha of private land are reserved under these arrangements.
Impact of logging restrictions on watershed conservation
New Zealand is geologically active and approximately one-third of the land area is considered steepland. The need to minimize soil erosion and catchment damage was recognized during the extensive land development era and large areas of forested land in these steep areas were established as protection forests. Protection forests cover about 4.3 million ha, mainly within the Conservation estate. Damage to steep land forests by introduced mammals, has been a major cause of induced erosion in many areas.
The first systematic approach to soil erosion control was under the 1941 Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act. Subsequently, timber-harvesting operations became subject to controls under regulations, legislation and guidelines setting standards for operations. Local Government-administered control through planning was under the Town and Country Planning Act 1977. This was replaced by the current RMA, administered by the 7 Regional Councils throughout New Zealand. Many of the larger urban areas rely on forest catchments, protected under local Government legislation, for water supplies.
Land clearance for farming during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century resulted in widespread erosion and soil loss in the North Island East Coast. The problem prompted the establishment of planted forests in critical headwater areas of the region. Current tree planting incentives are targeting 60 000 ha of erosion-prone lands in the region.
The logging restrictions are not considered to have had a major effect on the incidence of erosion or on water supply or quality, although the reservation of the extensive State-owned forests in 1987 may have had local benefits. Contemporary methods of timber harvest, in some cases by helicopters, further minimize ground disturbance and the likelihood of other adverse effects.
Impacts of logging restrictions on biodiversity conservation
Biodiversity loss is a key issue in New Zealand. The 1997 State of the Environment Report listed the following as key requirements:
New Zealand has prepared a draft Biodiversity Strategy reflecting its ratification of the 1993 International Convention on Biodiversity. The Strategy sets out the issues, objectives and proposed actions to be taken. The Government is currently reviewing the preparation of a national policy on biodiversity, which will consider the approach for biodiversity on private lands.
The 1997 Report and the Biodiversity Strategy both reflect a continuing concern about the extent and quality of New Zealands indigenous species habitats. The report states that although one-third of the land area is under the conservation estate, at least 1.8 million ha of the natural forests are threatened by introduced species. A further concern is the loss of biodiversity through reduction of lowland forests to smaller remnants by land development.
Legislation provides specific protection requirements. The Forests Act sustainable forest management provisions require forest owners under approved plans for timber harvest to also provide for the retention of natural forest values. The Act also provides for the reservation from logging of up to 20 percent of forest areas when specific needs are identified.
Under the RMA, councils are required to provide for protection of nationally important natural forest areas and significant habitats of indigenous fauna.
The impacts on employment and income generation from logging restrictions have been felt most in the smaller milling-dependant communities. The pre-1987 restrictions especially affected people living in communities in the central North Island, South Island West Coast, and Southland, which served older mills cutting natural timber. Some smaller isolated towns, notably those serving larger mills, lost substantial populations or closed completely. Some regional communities also supported farming and other activities, or alternative employment was available in the planted forest operations.
The social impacts of the post-1987 restrictions have been largely from the changes to the State-owned forest administration. The South Island West Coast was particularly affected because it is geographically isolated from other regions and about 80 percent of its land area is State-owned, much of which is natural forests. The area has a wet climate, generally poor soils, with a relatively small area of good farmland. At the time of the 1987 changes, arrangements provided for both conservation of natural forest areas and some continuing harvesting from the State-owned natural forests. The West Coast Accord allocated forests for both protection and continued sawmilling. At present, it is the only region with State-owned forests still producing timber, although the Government has now determined that this timber production will also cease.
After 1987, employment for West Coast people was available in some communities with the newly established DOC and with the continuing production forestry, which was eventually taken over by TWC. Time series studies of the effects on employment are limited and the degree to which skilled workers moved to other employment in the region is not clear. However, studies on the contribution from tourism to employment in the West Coast region show that, in 1992, about 8 percent of the local full-time jobs in the West Coast region were supported by tourism. Figures also indicate that expenditure on tourism in the region increased substantially between 1987 and 1994, suggesting equivalent increases in employment. By 1994, the tourism sector in the region, in terms of total numbers employed, was second only to pastoral farming and was substantially ahead of forestry.
Economic multipliers from a 1986/87 survey of the West Coast region also showed that tourism had greater capacity to boost household income than forestry, but less capacity than forestry to contribute to the total regional economy or employment.
The extensions to national parks and the establishment of World Heritage Park status in South Westland have boosted visitor numbers in the area. The extensive and spectacular tracts of natural landscapes suggest that the region has a high capacity to expand its tourism economy. Local businesses and services in a number of the smaller communities appear to have also benefited. The larger communities have increased accommodations, restaurants and other tourist services.
More recent surveys of local attitudes regarding forest management in the region suggest mixed support for conservation. But there is some concern that the region could become too dependent on tourism and related service-oriented employment unless other (non-timber) production activities are also developed.
SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT AND FOREST PROTECTION - THE CURRENT DEBATE
The most recent phase of New Zealand logging restrictions has been the Governments decision to phase out remaining timber production in State-owned natural forests. The forests affected are all within the West Coast region, comprising approximately 130 000 ha of beech and podocarp natural forests, areas under sustainable management, and overcut forests.
The policy was published in the pre-election Labor Party manifesto and confirmed by the new Government after the November 1999 election. The policy was implemented immediately with the decision to halt further consideration of the beech forest management proposals. The consents for beech management, under the RMA, were to be considered in local Government council hearings.
The new Government has also confirmed the previous Governments decision to halt the remaining unsustainable logging of State-owned natural forests. Additionally it has decided to phase-out timber harvest from the natural forests under sustainable management. Measures include proposed legislation to cancel the West Coast Accord and early completion dates for existing timber-supply contracts.
The Government acknowledges that this decision was made as a matter of judgment. It highlights the overriding determination that cessation of timber production is necessary for forest conservation of State-owned natural forests in the West Coast region, given that:
Opponents of the Governments decision criticize the lack of debate of merits or demerits of timber harvesting through sustainable management of beech forests. This resulted from TWC withdrawal from the RMA consent hearings. Harvesting advocates argue that new harvesting methods have minimal impacts on the forests. These methods follow the natural dynamic processes of tree growth and senescence applied in conjunction with aerial extraction of logs. They argue that management oriented to ecological processes would also lead to a broadening of the scope for biodiversity conservation, integrating conservation through sustainable management and management of other forests under full protection. They dispute that timber harvesting is the major cause of biodiversity loss, but instead blame invasive pests for forest decline and species loss.
Similar arguments apply to the management of rimu forests, including the 9 500-ha area designated for sustainable management in 1984, from which the current commercial timber harvest is also scheduled to cease. Critics of the Governments decision argue that timber production based on low-impact extraction and management techniques that follow natural patterns of growth and mortality are key developments in sustainable management. They further point out that there is a strong distinction between these forests and the areas being logged under unsustainable regimes, and from which timber harvest will also cease.
Supporters of the Governments decision believe that full protection of the State-owned natural forests is required if the remaining natural forests are to contribute effectively to key conservation goals. They argue that timber harvest removes key habitat trees, facilitates weed and pest introduction and creates habitat disturbances affecting both vegetation and native fauna. They also note that the production forests are a particularly significant part of the relatively extensive lowland forests of the region and that timber harvest, despite methods proposed for sustainable management, is an unacceptable risk to the forests.
Despite its decision relating to State-owned West Coast natural forests, the Government continues to support timber harvest from private natural forests in accordance with the sustainable forest management principles of the Forests Act.
The Government decision also pre-empted further scheduled changes to the Forests Act that would have finally removed the exemption for State-owned forests under the Acts sustainable forest management provisions. That exemption maintained the inconsistency between policies applying to private forests and those applying to State-owned forests.
The West Coast policy change was undoubtedly made easier by the regions unique conservation qualities and the inconsistencies in existing forest policies. However, the West Coast is also the only remaining area of New Zealand with State-managed production natural forests. Other regions either lost natural forest cover many years earlier or any remnants of State-owned forests were fully protected previously. Technical advances in sustainable management of the West Coast forests have been achievable under incentives such as high timber value, and the necessity to manage forests according to natural processes and conservation imperatives, rather than to meet production demands. Ironically these achievements have been clouded by the debate and controversy that has characterized the West Coast forests in recent years.
CONCLUSION - LESSONS LEARNED FROM NEW ZEALANDS EXPERIENCE
Natural forest logging restrictions have spanned about three decades and resulted in a progressive reduction of the role of natural forests for timber production. They include the measures imposed before, and after, the substantial restructuring of the Government in 1987. After 1987, the measures became more focused on meeting forest protection goals.
Early research and assessment of the natural forest resource led to the establishment of planted forests. The issues of the environmental era could not have been foreseen in the 1920s. However, the limitations of the natural forests to produce considerable timber volumes in perpetuity were certainly expected. This knowledge provided a major impetus to create planted forests to meet timber demands.
Most of the better quality, accessible land was cleared for farming. However, much of New Zealands first major State forests, and the earliest large-scale private forest planting during the 1920s and 1930s, occurred on relatively accessible, flat land with friable pumice soils in the volcanic plateau area of the Central North Island. The forest establishment was made possible principally because of the failure of livestock farming on these lands due to cobalt deficiencies in the soil. Later farm practices were able to correct the problem but planted forest had already gained a major boost.
The extensive national forest surveys during the first half of the twentieth century, and the applied research into planted forest, provided knowledge on the shrinking extent of natural forests and supported the successful development of planted forests.
The planted forests have been vital as a substitute for natural forest timbers and in creating the alternative production forests in New Zealand. They were established during several planting booms assisted by research and development. Nevertheless, it took time for radiata pine to be accepted as the mainstay timber. By 1987, the planted forests capacity to replace the natural forests as a production resource gave greater impetus to the environmental arguments for reducing natural forest logging.
The success with radiata pine has been an undoubted key to the overall success of planted forest. However, other species should play a strategic part in planted forest as substitutes for a declining supply of specialty timbers from natural forests. A number of introduced hardwood and softwood species, potentially able to meet this role, are currently only a small component of the planted forests. However further development of New Zealands planted specialty timbers may be hastened by the reducing supply of natural forest timber.
Restructuring of the forestry administration
The 1987 Government restructuring led to the privatization of the public-owned planted forests and the progressive withdrawal of the Government from production forestry. Under the current policy, the Government will continue this change by halting the remaining timber production in the State-owned natural forests.
The restructuring was a fundamental reorganization of New Zealands Government, including the institutional arrangements for environmental administration. The transfer of Government-owned natural forests to the DOC created a clear physical and functional difference between natural and planted forests.
Due to the step-by-step implementation and the concurrent adaptation of the milling industry to planted forest resources, the impacts of the logging restrictions have been manageable. Transitional arrangements, such as the provision of bridging timber volumes to enable industry and forest owners to adapt, played a key role. In some instances, arrangements were not possible, such as with the 1990 export ban. In this case, the Government incurred direct costs in order to compensate for terminated contracts.
The industry currently processing natural forest timber faces considerable uncertainties. The current policy changes will further reduce supply from State-owned forests. The industry will need to rely on the smaller private forests, planted forests, or imported timber instead. Imports may, however, shift towards processed items, reducing the dependence on domestic processing.
The increase in the price of natural forest timbers reflecting high-value specialty uses has occurred in line with the reduced supply and adaptation of processing towards higher valued products and end-user markets.
The economic and social impacts have been most prevalent in the forested South Island West Coast region. Debate concerning the role of the natural forests in the region has spanned several decades and has defied any apparent permanent solution. The region contains extensive natural forests including lowland forests, largely under State ownership. Its economy historically relied on coal and timber. The adaptation to more sustainable natural resource use paralleled a strong public push for forest protection.
The debate continues over issues of regional self-reliance, obligations of the Government, social and economic circumstances and whether some State-owned forests should continue to be harvested for timber or be solely devoted to protection. The New Zealand Government is also considering an economic development package to assist the region during the transition period.
Forest policy measures
Forest policy measures through the period have generally been discrete and narrowly focused. The pre-1987 Forest Service policies were developed in response to mounting concern over exploitative logging and clearance of the natural forests. Post-1987 measures focused on the private forests. By the 1990s, a number of statutes affected the natural forests under various tenures. This created a complex and uncoordinated framework of legislation. Although an umbrella Forest Policy was proposed in the late 1980s, this was not developed further.
New Zealand has benefited from a number of advantages in developing and implementing the logging bans. They include:
The New Zealand experience would suggest that policies relating to the establishment and implementation of logging bans should include:
Allsop, F. 1973. The first fifty years of New Zealands forest service. Wellington, A.R. Shearer, Government Printer.
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Brown, L. 1968. The forestry era of Professor Thomas Kirk F.L.S. New Zealand Forest Service, Wellington.
Brown, L. & McKinnon, A.D. 1956. Captain Inches Campbell Walker, New Zealands first conservator of forests. New Zealand Forest Service, Wellington.
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| 1 US$ 1 = 2.25 NZD (January 2001)
2 For example, The Lands and Survey Department managed farm development programs and forest reserves. Both this agency and the Forest Service performed similar environmental management roles over separate state land categories.
3 This criticism was fuelled by growing support, after the 1984 election, for a market-driven economic approach in New Zealand. There was also a call for clear and separate accountabilities for Government departments and the removal of state subsidies.
4 The 1986 West Coast Accord provided for specified period of cutting in some West Coast podocarp forests at rates in excess of the sustainable level of cut. The overcut applied to forests the North Westland, Karamea and Buller regions of the West Coast and recognised a need to maintain some interim level of supply to mills in these areas. The term overcut, therefore, refers to a timber supply strategy rather than primarily to a forest management-linked cutting strategy. Currently, only the Buller overcut remains active. In contrast to the overcut, timber harvests from other West Coast podocarp forests have been sustainable.
5 In 1840, New Zealand was established as a colony under the British Crown. More than 500 chiefs of the Mâori tribes of New Zealand signed the Treaty of Waitangi, an agreement between the Mâori people and the British Crown. The Treaty of Waitangi is recognised as the founding document of the nation. Today, the Treaty continues as a living document and is the subject of much debate on race relations in New Zealand. It has an important position in many Government activities.
6 The Government sale of the forests, also termed privatisation,
involved sale only of the forest assets - the tree crop, buildings etc.
The land remained under Crown ownership with provisions for lease of the
land to the new owners for a rotation (35 years) and in some cases, a
longer period. There was also provision for review of any claims to the
land and, in the case of successful claims, return of the land after the
lease expiry. The forest sales commenced in 1989 and were largely completed