Obsession with Pine Trees an Environmental and People Disaster

Press release – Council of Outdoor Recreational Associations of NZ
An outdoor and conservation forum says the loss of a boy’s life at Waikanae Beach near Gisborne and devastation to rural communities show the obsession by government with planting pine trees is not only environmentally disastrous but in terms of people’s well-being. Andi Cockroft, chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations said government and the corporate forestry industry must bear moral responsibility for the child’s death as well as the devastation to communities and the environment.

“The Labour-led Government’s “One Billion Trees” Dream was short-sighted,” he said. “The government’s ambitious “one billion trees” policy championed by NZ First’s Shane Jones so as to avoid monocultures of pines was foolish and the Green and labour Parties were parties to the stupidity and now the loss of human life and destruction of rural farms and homes.”

He said the littering of the public’s North island east coast beaches was akin to environmental vandalism.

“It’s not just the North Island’s east coast either,” added Andi Cockroft. “The uncontrolled planting of pines, lately for carbon trading is environmentally damaging. Monocultures of pine trees in many parts of New Zealand had been an environmental disaster with depleted stream flows and heavy siltation of rivers and estuaries following clear felling logging.”


The aftermath of clear felling and poor logging practices

80% Foreign Owned
“The forestry industry is over 80% foreign owned and the corporate overseas-based companies have little interest in the environment or human values. Their overwhelmingly top priority is to maximise profits. Face it, it’s the undeniable corporate culture”

He emphasised the forestry interests whether overseas or New Zealand were doing nothing illegal. The failure is with both the National and Labour-led governments of the last two decades.

Past attention about water and river quality had almost exclusively focused on so-called “dirty dairying” but there were other land-use questions to be answered.

The practice in NZ of clear felling pines exposed steep hill country to heavy runoff of silt and debris, when rains occurred. But run-off could be reduced by two-stage harvesting of forests,  as apparently  practised in Europe where felling is in done in two cuts perhaps 12 months apart, along contours thus reducing runoff. 

Another ill-effect of forestry monoculture  was lowered pH levels i.e., acidification of the soils and therefore increased acidic runoff into waterways.  

pH Level Important
“The pH level (degree of acidity) is important to both bottom fauna and subsequently aquatic life such as indigenous fish and trout. If the pH drops below 5.5 (increased acidity) then long term damage to the freshwater fishery, both native and trout, occurs.” 

Pine trees take much more water from the environment than native vegetation and reports were where pines have been planted, stream flows were noticeably less and even disappeared. 

One Malaysian owned forestry corporate in Marlborough had eroded extremely steep hill country with extensive slipping resulting and burned native bush. The Marlborough Sounds inner inlets had been badly silted up smothering the ecosystem and causing fishery declines.

Urgent study and policy should aim to implement better harvesting regimes as practised in Europe, zoning of land use to avoid extensive pine forest monocultures and making mandatory creation of 50 metre buffer zones along all rivers and streams.

Sadly, enforcement of current legislation by the responsible authorities is extremely lacking, with only scant measures taken to ensure compliance with the law. Even then, compared to the profits, any fines are trivial. The tragedy at Waikanae might have been avoided had the local Council done their job!


Contact: Andi Cockroft 027 204 1878
“The pH level (degree of acidity) is important to both bottom fauna and subsequently aquatic life such as indigenous fish and trout. If the pH drops below 5.5 (increased acidity) then long term damage to the freshwater fishery, both native and trout, occurs.” 
This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Obsession with Pine Trees an Environmental and People Disaster

  1. Sean O'Sullivan says:

    Labour and the Greens should stop plans to plant vast, environmentally risky pine forests as a way of offsetting NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions. National brought in the absurd ETS. All three need to do a radical rethink and revision. Well spoken Andi Cockroft.

  2. Mike McManus says:

    The carbon trading forestry policy is insanity. It is a cop-out for climate change. It is saying plant trees and NZ can ignore the need for efficient public transport and the need to change the way Man lives. Wake up politicians!

  3. Mike McManus says:

    Good article. I fully agree.

  4. Dave Rhodes says:

    EDS files legal proceedings challenging the lawfulness of plantation forestry regulations

    The Environmental Defence Society says that the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) are failing to protect the coastal marine environment from the significant adverse effects of sedimentation associated with plantation forest harvesting. This has been starkly apparent in Tairāwhiti, but it is a nationwide problem.
    “The NES-PF permits harvesting and associated earthworks of plantation forestry on erosion prone land. We have filed legal declarations in the Environment Court challenging the lawfulness of that regime, which we consider is a breach of the Resource Management Act 1991,” says EDS CEO Gary Taylor.
    “A major cause of marine sediment is from harvesting activities undertaken by plantation forestry operations. This is particularly so during the approximately 7 year ‘window of vulnerability’ post clear fell harvesting on high erosion risk land.
    “During and after high rainfall events, which are becoming more regular, steep land that has recently been harvested is more susceptible to landslide and erosion. This generates sediment that runs off into the receiving marine environment, smothering aquatic life. In the Marlborough Sounds, this pollution is resulting in significant adverse effects on marine flora and fauna.
    “The Government is currently reviewing the NES-PF to address permanent exotic carbon forests, but the permissive regime for harvesting is outside of the terms of reference. This makes no sense. The NES-PF is not fit-for-purpose for managing plantation forestry harvesting activities, especially in this climate-changing world which is set to deliver bigger and more frequent storms.
    “It’s time for the plantation forestry sector to start internalising the costs of its significant adverse effects, instead of making downstream communities and environments pay,” Mr Taylor concluded.
    Donations to support this case are welcome and can be made here.

    More: Gary Taylor 021 895 896 or gary@eds.org.nz

    NZFFA - New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers

  5. Charles Henry says:

    Greater Wellington Regional Council inherited lands from the Wellington Water board in the late ’80s who had planted significant portions of the locally renowned Akatarawa Forest in pines for soil stabilisation purposes – as if natives weren’t doing a good enough job!!!
    In a pretty sad state, with no silviculture in evidence these trees had little or no commercial value. However, the Council decided to start running Pine Forestry operations as a profitable operation. Much of the pine plantation was felled (mostly for firewood) and replanted. The desolation was massive.
    Since that time, forestry has continued at a pretty constant pace firstly under Councils own auspices, but later by overseas interests after purchasing 60 years of cutting rights (i.e. two rotations) with ongoing rights of renewal.
    During all this time, GWRC not only has a vested interest in maximising profit from the forest, but is also tasked at law to enforce the Resource Management Act. Their environmental protection people therefore tasked with overseeing their forestry operation – talk about the fox in charge of the hen house.
    With massive run-offs into the once vibrant Whakatikei River, many groups have lodged complaints with both GWRC and the local territorial authority Upper Hutt City Council. All to no avail, the slash, the sedimentation, the acidification continues unabated.
    I know of two NGO’s who have made representation, as well as quite a few individuals all registering complaints with both Councils over the years, all to no avail – the environmental carnage continues.
    If Councils refuse to take action when advised, how can the average citizen hope to be able to make them take heed?

    NZFFA - New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 80 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here