Council silent on chop or not


Queenstown’s council refuses to say if it will harvest Coronet Forest early.

Councillors spoke in secret last week about the possibility of harvesting the forest, which is mostly owned by the district’s ratepayers.

But now the council won’t even say what, if anything, was decided.

Council spin doctor Michele Poole tells Mountain Scene: “I am not able to tell you the outcome of the discussion. It was considered with the public excluded and the reason for that was set out in the agenda.”

That reason was for commercial negotiations to take place - behind closed doors.

Mayor Vanessa van Uden says the result of the secret meeting won’t be made public until later in the year.

Mountain Scene columnist Mike Ramsay, who owns a forest north of Dunedin, reckons the council is cutting its revenue if its harvests the forest early.

“The economic sacrifice they’re making is, quite frankly, stupid,” Ramsay says.

Queenstown council owns 75 per cent of the 173 hectare forest while Central Otago’s council owns the remaining 25 per cent.

Ministry for Primary Industries media man Mark Smith says pre-1990 forest landowners can generally harvest and replant without any penalties under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

But a pre-1990 forest landowner who is not exempt, and harvests early, must pay carbon credits to “cover the emissions” or plant a new forest to “offset deforestation”.

The planting of Coronet Forest straddles 1990 as it was between 1984 and 1996.

Smith also says “councils are not automatically exempt”.

So it’s either pay up or grow up, as at least some of the trees in Coronet Forest were planted pre-1990.

Poole says the Douglas Fir trees growing in the forest are a “seed source for the spread of wildings across the Wakatipu Basin”, which is something the council has taken into consideration.