Forest vigilante threat dismays land owners

31 July 2012

Forest owners are dismayed at Otago University Professor Sir Alan Mark’s suggestion that he might assemble a group of activists to rip out forest seedlings on a farm near Dunedin.


“It’s one thing for the professor to be a passionate advocate for environmental causes. It’s quite another to threaten vigilante action and to incite trespass,” says FOA Environment Committee chair Peter Weir.

At issue is a 189 hectare block of Douglas-fir planted as a carbon forest by Landcorp at Waipori Station. The block borders Te Papanui Conservation Park and the Stony Creek Scenic Reserve.

Sir Alan is fearful that wilding Douglas-fir will spread through these important tussock land reserves from seeds blown from the plantation. It is an issue he is passionate about. Sir Alan led a major campaign to remove wildling pines from thousands of hectares at Mid-Dome in Southland and has previously helped Landcorp remove wildling pines from Waipori Station.

He told Radio New Zealand yesterday that he might lead a group to the site to remove the trees if Landcorp will not.

Mr Weir says higher rainfall areas of the South Island high country are very good for growing Douglas-fir. It produces high value timber, much preferred for building in Otago and Southland, and is ideal for carbon sequestration.

“It is unfortunate Landcorp is being criticised for addressing their on-farm greenhouse gas emissions in such a productive way. It’s also unfortunate that the proposed National Environmental Standard (NES) for Plantation Forestry has yet to get approval from government, because it includes a wilding risk calculator that drives rules for afforestation,” he says. 

“If the NES were in effect then the rules around afforestation would be much clearer for all land owners.

“Yes, there is a risk of wildling spread. But this can be mitigated by planting a Ponderosa pine buffer zone around the Douglas-fir, surrounded in turn by grazing land. Any seeds that do escape and grow into young trees are then easily controlled before they start producing cones. There is a 10 year window to eradicate any escapees before they produce fertile seeds.”

He says these form a suite of good forest management practices for forestry in the high country and have been adopted by Landcorp.

“Land owners have the right to plant forests, so long as they manage them responsibly,” Mr Weir says.

“For a respected person like Sir Alan to suggest a planted forest be ripped out fills us with dismay. It’s not as if high country forestry is a new issue, or that he has exhausted all his legal options … not that this would justify vigilante action anyway.”

For more information, please ring Peter Weir, Tel 027 474 7873 or 03 384 7873