The Department of Conservation has issued its first authority to salvage wind-blown timber on West Coast public conservation land with the returns to be invested back into conservation.
West Coast company New Zealand Sustainable Forest Products Ltd (NZSFP) has been authorised to salvage 600 cubic metres of rimu and 100 cubic metres of red beech in the Ahaura Road Amenity Area in the Grey valley with work expected to start anytime.
About 40 hectares of the mixed beech and podocarp forest in the 490-hectare Ahaura Amenity Area was blown over in the Cyclone Ita weather event in April this year.
DOC West Coast Conservation Service Director Roy Grose said DOC was satisfied that NZSFP’s operational work plans met the strict standards to remove the timber in a way that would minimise the impact on the forest ecosystem and was safe for workers and the public.
“At the most only half of the wind-damaged trees will be salvaged from just half of the wind-damaged area, and this will be spread out across the area to minimise impact on the forest.”
The remainder of the wind-blown trees will be left, including a proportion of big logs, as part of the forest ecosystem.
Most of the timber will be removed by helicopter and heavy machinery is restricted to formed roads to minimise damage to vegetation, said Grose.
The company has to meet stringent health and safety standards and work practices will be audited by DOC contracted specialists and WorkSafe New Zealand.
DOC will receive a payment per cubic metre for the timber, similar to the market price for native timber prior to Cyclone Ita, which will be used for conservation work, said Grose.
DOC is working with three other operators to process detailed work plans to salvage about another 1,300 cubic metres of wind-blown timber from other areas of public conservation land between Hokitika and Karamea.
Overall, this is expected to generate about $300,000–$400,000 for conservation once administration and monitoring costs are covered.
Interest has been expressed for a similar quantity of timber over the next 12 months or so.
Cyclone Ita hit the West Coast on 17 April this year and caused widespread damage, including about 38,000 hectares of wind-blown forest on public conservation land. Of this, only about 8,700 hectares of damaged forest is eligible for salvage under the West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Act 2014.
The Act allows for timber to be recovered from wind-blown trees affected by the Cyclone Ita weather event in some public conservation areas on the West Coast.
World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa are specifically excluded. The salvage of timber is limited until July 2019 when the Act expires.
Initially DOC received 14 applications to remove timber and these were assessed by a panel of DOC staff and representatives from the Ministry of Primary Industries and iwi.
Approved operators must submit detailed work plans for timber salvage which must meet operational and environmental guidelines developed by DOC and MPI.