A set of holistic recommendations for the future of Council commercial forestry in Nelson that calls for the end of clear felling and a transition to a continuous canopy of mixed species, will be presented to elected members at a Council meeting on Thursday 9 November.
The Right Tree Right Place Taskforce, chaired by former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams, was set up in February 2023 and had its last meeting on 1 November. Its remit was to evaluate future options for Council’s 600 ha of commercial forestry in the Maitai, Brook, Roding and Marsden valleys, which is mostly planted in Pinus radiata.
The taskforce has made a series of recommendations with an overarching goal of removing the distinction between Council’s commercial forestry operations and the 10,000 ha of Council forested land as a whole, which includes water and conservation reserves. These recommendations are contained in the taskforce’s report: Whakatū Forest Futures – Nurturing the 10,000+ Hectares for their Many Values.
Dr Williams says 10,000 ha of Council-owned forested land so close to the city is a valuable community asset.
“It’s gold, this relationship between the urban area and the natural environment. No other city in New Zealand has such a large forest area so close.
“Any plans to transition from Pinus radiata must consider the importance of maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity and resilience of the whole forest estate. Otherwise, there could be significant biodiversity loss in the 10,000 ha while transitioning a few hundred hectares.”
Any transitioning from commercial Pinus radiata forestry would not happen overnight; the taskforce recommends a framework for action over the next 20 years. It also recommends several ways in which Council could fund the shift to a continuous canopy forest of mixed species.
“We recommend a cost-benefit analysis to identify opportunities for revenue raising,” Dr Williams says. “This could include the sale of cutting rights to select stands for a rotation, making the most of any eligible Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) benefits and using local government powers to raise loans or levies.
“All returns and carbon credits earned since the forests were reregistered into the ETS should be ‘ring-fenced’ in Council accounts, to help fund forest transitions and restoration.”
The suggested transition would not necessarily mean the end of all commercial forestry on Council land, as continuous canopy forestry allows for the harvesting of smaller numbers of high-value mixed species trees.
Acting Mayor Rohan O’Neill-Stevens says the taskforce report, background papers and recommendations represent a huge amount of work by the members of the taskforce.
“This is the important next step in what has been an ongoing conversation, both within council and in the wider community, and I want to thank the taskforce for their hard work in this space. We will be carefully considering their report and recommendations, before making a decision on the future of our forests.”
Elected members are scheduled to discuss the recommendations and decide whether to adopt them at the Council meeting on Thursday 9 November.
The Right Tree Right Place Taskforce was made up of independent specialists Morgan Williams (Chair), Joanne Clapcott, Andrew Fenemor and Stuart Orme, and councillors Rachel Sanson and Matthew Benge.