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

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

  1. D.C. Doolittle says:

    The carbon farming (forestry ) is folly. It is trying to solve an environmental problem by a speculative free market trading system.

  2. Frank Henry says:

    The Nelson fires of a few years ago show how vulnerable monocultures of pine forests are. Besides swathes of pines degrade the environment as Mr Cockroft has pointed out. We need more responsible land use in rural NZ instead of pandering to an ideological fad. The government’s carbon off-set forestry policy will impose a monolithic monoculture on productive beef and sheep farms and the countryside.

  3. Brerpossum says:

    The whole thing with pine trees is very short sighted. They should be planting native trees for the future especially if they aren’t planning on milling the trees, keeping them for the carbon credits.
    Let’s look forwards for future generations, this country could be in better shape using natives.

  4. Rob McMillan says:

    The way certain commercial interests, particularly the 80 per cent of foreign adventurers, have been allowed to leave dangerous and unsightly “slash” behind when clear felling pine forests is an outrage and a disgrace. Establishment of pine forests for a quick profit is, in any case, too damaging for our country’s limited resources. Has no government department in this country a responsibility for an overview of this dangerous vandalism? It is high time for a court action to be mounted against those responsible. Demand they clean up their mess. Time also for serious and punitive legislation to prevent any repetition of the damage, danger and expense we have been faced with because of the greed of these foreigners and, sadly, some profiteering ratbags of our own.

    • 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

  5. Lew says:

    Pine trees are a disaster when planted in the wrong place. Steep country should be left to regenerate into native bush. As one comment said many countries in Europe have two harvests but in Germany there are several production harvests and all slash from each harvest is chipped and sold for firing central heating systems. It seems in NZ all the waste ends up creating havoc. Land being sold to overseas companies for carbon credits is total bullshit.

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