Old growth West Coast rainforest has been saved after local government backed down from plans to open it up to logging.
Last year the Grey District Council proposed commercial logging of three forested areas – Mt Buckley, Mt Sewell and Cashmere Bay. Fourteen thousand public submissions in opposition were received through environmental groups, including Forest & Bird. This week it emerged the proposal was abandoned in a confidential council meeting earlier this year.
“This is a victory for nature, but it’s also a step in the right direction for the West Coast’s long term sustainable future,” says Forest & Bird Chief Conservation Adviser Kevin Hackwell.
“The forests are the jewel in the West Coast’s crown and the most successful development initiatives – such as the West Coast Wilderness Trail for cyclists – don’t degrade that natural environment, but depend upon it remaining pristine.”
When the Government ended native forest logging on crown land eighteen years ago, West Coast council authorities received a $120 million development package to help the region move away from extractive industries.
“This is a battle that most people thought was over with the close of the 20th century, and I hope this ill-conceived plan is now laid to rest,” says Mr Hackwell.
“These forests are of national significance, so it’s entirely appropriate that any threats to them should be a national conversation, and it’s great to see people from all around the country ready to speak up for the forests when new threats arise.
“We have so little old growth forest left in New Zealand and any logging strips the ecosystem of the resources it needs to sustain itself. That means a reduction in habitat for bats, birds and native insects, it reduces nutrient and energy flows through the ecosystem, and it also adds further stress to ecosystems already undergoing disruption from climate change.
“The forests need our protection, but we need them too – increasing evidence showing how valuable our indigenous forests are as carbon sinks means we should be especially wary of any proposals to remove mature trees.”