Alternative use of West Coast indigenous forests
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This is an holistic, interdisciplinary overview of indigenous forest management on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. It touches on the twin pillars of New Zealand State indigenous forest policy for nearly half a century: multiple-use management and sustained-yield forestry. These were not satisfactorily achieved and most lowland forests were converted to other uses, except on the West Coast. Environmentalist pressure finally forced the curtailment of logging. A fundamental development question is thus raised: are there alternative commercial uses which can be nurtured to provide income and employment on the West Coast, yet still maintain environmental integrity? A socio-economic survey of alternative forest-based users was carried out and former Directors-General of Forestry were interviewed. Many local people were consulted. A financial analysis of selected users was undertaken. Resource information was obtained from this group and from secondary sources. A decision-making framework was used to analyse why seemingly well-intentioned plans by the New Zealand Forest Service never materialised and to put alternative forest-based users in a regional, national and international context of power relationships. Market-led economic philosophy, adopted by governments is inappropriate in dealing with conflicts over resource use and the need for long-term management. Government intervention has led to the legal protection of most lowland West Coast indigenous forests. This is only a first step, as management of resources leaves a lot to be desired. But, alternative forest-based users are few and powerless, being reliant on distant markets: most are at the mercy of foreign buyers and commodity traders. Increased management and a move away from forest-based activities would foster local economic security, but this would reduce the role of users in controlling browsing animals. Closer co-operation between resource users and bureaucratic decision-makers could bring mutual benefits. An approach which offers promise is social forestry. Social forestry may help to conserve resources and make optimum use of limited finances, but it is insufficient to resolve the wider development dilemma.