Two Labour MPs vote for common sense

The Herald reports:

Around 20,000 hectares of forest was felled by Cyclone Ita in April and a law change was required to allow beech, rimu, totara and matai trees to be harvested on the conservation estate — on the condition that they were taken outside classified areas and used for finished products and not firewood or wood chips.

The bill was debated under urgency and was expected to pass into law last night. In its early stages it was supported by National, New Zealand First, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour MPs.

Labour’s MP Damien O’Connor and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene went against their party by voting in support, but had sought amendments to make sure profits stayed within the immediate community.

O’Connor would have probably lost his seat if he didn’t cross the floor. But the fact he was unable to persuade his party to side with the interest of West Coasters ahead of the Green Party, shows he has little influence.

In opening the debate, Conservation Minister Nick Smith said there was no reason to leave the fallen timber untouched.

“This country is not so wealthy that it can allow beautiful, valuable, native timber to be left to rot.”

Opposition parties wanted the law change to be put out for public consulation, but Dr Smith said urgency was needed because the beech trees would spoil quickly.

The minister tried to reassure Green critics who worried about the removal of crucial nutrients from the forest ecosystem, saying that only a fraction of the 20,000 hectares of felled forest would be removed and “oodles” of biomass would remain “for the bugs and slugs to consume”.

Best of both worlds.

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