NZ ON PATH TO DEFORESTATION
A discussion document on the future of New Zealand forests claims that the country is on the path to net deforestation. For those of us who know and value our forests, both as an economic engine and as the essence of our natural identity, this report is clear evidence that our forest estates are on the verge of disaster.
The report has been completed by Pure Advantage from mainstream data contained in the 2015 Environment Aotearoa report and has been welcomed by the Forest Owners Association.
This is so wrong in so many ways, not least because successive governments have been clearly advised since Victoria was queen that forestry demands our most careful attention. And not just as the cultural treasure our native forests so obviously are.
Without forests there would be no New Zealand. Forests, particularly kauri, was the foundation of the country’s first economy, both in attracting foreign investment, securing exports and in providing the material with which to build a modern nation. However from the first forests gained no respect but were treated as an expendable resource which would be destroyed in the colonial clamour for pasture based products. Farming, not forestry, became the standard identifier of the nation that trees made.
However, as the Our Forest Future report makes clear, we can make our country wealthier, and how we can secure our nation against various risks, by expanding our forests. But this would require a quantum shift if Wellington’s policy making that demands a level of leadership that is not an obvious characteristic of our present administration.
A quick look at the economic desolation of those once great heartlands of New Zealand bush, Te Tai Tokerau, Te Tai Rawhiti and Westland should be enough to paint a clear image of our future if we don’t address our national disrespect for the bush. We cut it down, we sell it too cheaply, we burn it, we refuse to protect it. A day of reckoning is coming.
To quote the report…to undertake net deforestation invites risks to New Zealand’s resilience and prosperity. These avoidable risks include degradation of our environmental assets, getting offside with currents in international climate politics, and lost economic opportunities by failing to transition to a more sustainable, more prosperous forestry industry.
Accordingly, this report calls for a national forest strategy. It calls for the creation of long-term plans to establish future forests that cover 1.3 million hectares of New Zealand, to offset our agricultural emissions and to position New Zealand on a feasible course for a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future.
It remains to be seen whether such perfect sense will also be obvious to our Government.
OUR ENVIRONMENTAL HEARTLAND SHOULD BE TAPU
The bicameral Maori world is carefully divided into Tapu and Noa; loosely termed sacred and profane for Pakeha reference. The world is divided this way; left: right, female: male, conflict: resolution, calm: stormy, work: rest, and so on, with life’s aim being to keep each in balance with the other. It is time make this view the foundation of into our efforts at securing a core of the natural world in as original a condition as possible.
What is needed is a level of balance, so that both commerce and environmental protection can be pursued with clarity and energy. A balance that will allow a core of natural environments to survive beyond the direct influence of humans while permitting commerce to address its priorities without undue interference.
The commercial world’s singular attention is financial gain and as a consequence, human benefit, while preservation of the environment intends some natural continuity as a bulwark against commerce‘s more extreme expeditions. The two parts have nothing in common other than the longest term aim of human benefit – without a sustainable natural world we can’t survive.
To manage our conservation estate along these lines would see some natural areas, of forest, mountain, river, lake, marine and foreshore, locked away from human intervention other than those necessary for the survival of each in the modified environment of the modern world. In such a case marine reserves would allow no fishing, commercial or environmental, while forest reserves would allow no visitor access, or material extraction other than for essential research purposes. Reserves that are tapu in the extreme sense; no go areas.
Such reserves would necessarily have physical integrity; that is they would make natural sense according to their geographic and physical characters. Forests would be natural forest environments of a specified type, within a catchment range that would allow no unexpected incursions, while similar standards would apply to marine reserves, taking account of currents, natural flows, etc.
Then we could get on with the job preserving a hard core of our natural environment, providing seminal spaces for threatened species as well as heartland zone for a National Park system that is inevitably compromised by its dual commercial/conservation role.
Under such a regime, commerce could profitable make sense of resources such as native timbers (kauri, totara, kahikatea), native game birds, fishes etc, knowing that the each species is underwritten by a tapu area that attends to it flourishing. It would also mean an end to commercial erosion of the conservation estate by making clear it is tapu under all circumstances, no taking of fallen trees for timber, no nets inadvertently snaring Maui dolphins.
In the area of research, scientists could pursue pure science projects based in these areas without simultaneously managing a commercial agenda.
It would also make the job of Minister of Conservation easier as there is no opportunity for weasel words in an area with no compromise.
At the moment we have a steadily expanding DOC domain, and a just as steadily declining financial resource that is pressuring administrators to take flaky options like “community partnerships”. A clearly defined Tapu Estate would brook no political manipulation and would make the role of the Ministry very clear to everybody.
The only problem is, we need political intelligence to make it happen. That, as always, is an extremely rare commodity. Endangered, even.
BARE FEET ARE BEST
A heartfelt thank you to the Department of Conservation for removing the Trigene foot wash pad from the Tane Mahuta walkway in Waipoua Forest. The risk of damaging our most famous precious tree by contamination of its root zone. Trigene is a chemical known to have a devastating effect on micro-organisms such as those that maintain soil and root health, and we at the Waipoua Forest Trust are relieved that the threat to our taonga has been removed.
But: and it is a serious but, Waipoua’s future remains insecure until the Department of Conservation acknowledges that the use of such destructive chemicals in our conservation estate is contrary to the very concept of conservation. Trigene was designed as a surfacant for use in medical surgeries and laboratories to maintain sterile conditions, so its job is to destroy the very bacteria and other microbiota that are essential to a healthy soil. While it may sound like the perfect stuff with which to attack the fungus, Phytophthera agathidicida that causes Kauri Dieback, its effects on soil health are largely unknown, and what we do know make it not worth the risk.
Until our understanding of the entire kauri environment is greater than is currently the case in an area of science that is surprisingly bare of significant research over the last 150 years, our plea to those responsible is to take the safest option. And the safest option is to not use products that are unproven or whose effects are unknown in our conservation environments.
This is especially the case with Trigene, which can be assumed to be a threat to forest soil health and is ineffective against Phytophthera agathidicida. Research clearly shows that Trigene does not kill the oospores that spread Kauri Dieback during the summer months when visitor numbers in our forests are at their highest.
In the particular case of Tane Mahuta, there is no reason why visitors should not remove any footwear before embarking on the short boardwalk journey to the great tree and back. This greatly reduces that chance of spoors being spread into Tane Mahuta’s neighbourhood on shoes or boots.
Removal of footwear before entering sacred sites is acceptable within both Maori and Eastern Asian cultures, so there is little substance to arguments that bare feet will offend tourists who have invariably travelled far to visit Tane Mahuta and our other venerable trees. Some argue that to take your shoes off before an audience with a 2,500-year-old living icon is no more than due respect and would enhance the experience.
The culture of reaching for the poison gun in every environmental management case is well ingrained in the New Zealand psyche. It is time for the Department of Conservation to show leadership in changing that, by reverting to barefoot safety around Tane Mahuta.
Will Revived Forest Grant Scheme be Good for Natives?
The revival of the Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS) announced this week by the associate Primary Industries Minister, Jo Goodhew is unlikely to lead to more planting of native forest, according to Forest Owners Association technical manager, Glen Mackie.
While Mackie acknowledged that the Government’s decision, “..is an endorsement of the environmental attributes of forestry and will doubtless make a useful contribution to erosion prevention and the country’s carbon ledger,” this is only the case if the forests are commercial plantation plantings, most likely radiata.
According to Mackie the revived scheme, “…is squarely aimed at pastoral farmers on steep erosion-prone land where the economics of production forestry might be marginal.”
The new version of the scheme will see $22.5 million invested over the next six years to encourage the planting of an expected 15,000 hectares of new forest.
“The new scheme will take up where its highly successful predecessor left off,” Mrs Goodhew says. “Farmers and landowners can again use the AGS to make better use of marginal land and increase farming diversification.”
Successful applicants will receive $1,300 per hectare for new forest planting, with priority given to applications addressing environmental issues such as erosion. However there is no indication in the Government’s release documents of priorities for industrial planting. Those planning rehabilitation of native forest areas should be equally eligible for the grants as other landowners.
Full details of the scheme will be available prior to the due date for applications on 27 May 2015.
Cutting Down Kauri Was “In the Rules”.
According to a late Auckland City Council report on its granting of consent for a Titirangi developer to cut down a mature kauri, it was all done according to the rules.
In a report delivered yesterday, weeks later than scheduled, the council’s chief planning officer concluded that the consents for the kauri’s felling were “appropriate” and that the commissioners hearing the application were within the rules in not making the felling notifiable.
Popular local action and close media attention saved the tree, while a protestor who remaining up the tree for 3 days in support of its survival has since pleaded guilty to trespass on the Paturoa Road, Titirangi property.