West Coast needs a bold, smart vision – not more ‘boom and bust’ – Forest And Bird

By   /   July 15, 2017  /   2 Comments

Forest & Bird is calling for a bolder vision for the West Coast in response to new plans to smooth the way for more of the same ‘boom and bust’ industries.

Today Ministers of Conservation, Economic Development, and Tourism launched the Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Development Action Plan.

“We congratulate the West Coast for coming up with a comprehensive regional development plan, and there’s certainly some good ideas in there,” says Forest & Bird’s Canterbury West Coast Regional Manager Jen Miller.

“However, we’re alarmed to see the plan contains a ‘fast track’ process for mining, ongoing logging access to conservation forests, and plans to dispose of some conservation land.”

“These proposals are a continuation of this Government’s short sighted focus on resource extraction, and bending the rules for favoured industries,” says Ms Miller.

“We are particularly frustrated to see favourable treatment for mining, with the creation of a ‘single window’ regulatory process for all approvals and consents.” A single window approach would see mining companies submit all necessary applications together.

“When it comes to mining on the West Coast, we have seen multiple instances of the Department of Conservation being hobbled in its advocacy role. A coordinated regulatory process will likely result in the complete loss of that advocacy voice.”

“Coal mining in areas of high conservation value such as the Buller Plateau has drastic and irreversible impacts, and expert ecologists have said additional mining is likely to lead to species extinctions,” says Ms Miller.

“DOC needs to be able to make independent decisions based on the best evidence, not be captured by development focused agencies.”

The Government also plans to extend access to conservation forests for the harvest of windblown trees by making permanent the West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Act, which enabled temporary logging of windblown native forest trees following Cyclone Ita.

“This approach completely ignores the fact that rotting timber is a vital component of the forest ecosystem. Wind-thrown trees must be allowed to decompose and recycle their nutrients back into the environment, for the benefit of our native wildlife, and the forest itself.”

Forest & Bird is also concerned about plans to dispose of conservation land with ‘low or limited’ value. “Where land genuinely has no conservation value, we have no problem with it being removed from the conservation estate. But some of the Coast’s lowland forests, although modified, are nationally rare and have very high conservation values,” says Ms Miller.

“There are however some really great ideas in this plan. We support the development of the Coast’s digital infrastructure, and new cycle trails including the Kawatiri (Charleston to Westport) Coastal Trail – this is a great example of the kind of sustainable tourism initiative we’d like to see more of.”

“We’d also like to see more diversity in the Economic Strategy Group who carry this plan forward. Right now the group lacks youth, diversity, conservation interests, and tourism operators who rely on the natural environment.”

“Overall this is a missed opportunity. The future for coal looks bleak. West Coasters have the right to expect a sustainable and innovative economic plan that gives them certainty and doesn’t destroy their unique environment.”

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2 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Agreed as every time I visit the west coast the life has it’s own speed and a shock financial injection is only a temporary measure unsuitable for enduring economic security there.

    e bought a house in Granity 45 KMs north of west port and then it was a former coal town settling into a retirement community.

    Most settlements on the coast are in a different economic cycle than anywhere else i have seen because of it’s secluded regional location, so we have to be given great care to develop it’s potential slowly over time.

  2. John W says:

    The West coast has had its wealth extracted and profits taken off to other centres and off shore for many decades.

    There has been little investment into the communities and certainly only a tiny residue of any wealth from processing the diminishing Natural Resource, remains on the Coast.

    Supermarket chains have now killed off local suppliers of everyday foodstuff and growing unemployment and despair sees a growing problem with metal health including drug addiction.

    The market will not look after this area and infrastructure to create production for local supply and export is just not there. No action from Government is evident except to use tourism as a placebo. Most of the tourist dollar does not remain on the Coast.

    A Govt driven scheme floating local industry to fill local needs does not seem a difficult concept but NACT ideology will not allow that.

    Secondary school leavers have very dim prospects.

    The dependence on Tourism is a fragile means to prop up a mess left by dependence on harvesting minerals and creating environmental damage.