The Labour Government has been asleep at the wheel in regards to the logging of 90-year-old forests on Crown land surrounding the Blue Lake, Tikitapu, in Rotorua, says National's Environment & Conservation spokesman, Nick Smith.
"These magnificent trees offer far more to New Zealand and Rotorua for their scenic and recreational value than as timber and pulp. They are part of the popular Blue Lake walkway and the stunning scenery that is the backdrop to the busy tourism highway to Lake Tarawera and the Buried Village.
"There is deep and widespread concern in the Rotorua community about the impacts of this logging on tourism and recreation. However, the Rotorua District Council can't fix it without Government support."
Dr Smith says the 90-year-old douglas fir trees are on Crown land, but the cutting rights are owned by Kangaroa Timberlands, a company jointly owned by Harvard University and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The company is planning to selectively log the trees over the next two months in a process that will require the closure of the Blue Lake track.
"Private property rights must be respected. However, the Nature Heritage Fund could be used to purchase the rights at reasonable market rates in an agreement with the local council and the forest owner.
"In my view, retaining a forest like this with conservation value in one of New Zealand's major tourism destinations should be a higher priority than some of the other projects this so-called conservation-minded Government gets itself involved in. And frankly, it also makes commercial sense in terms of our tourism industry.
"Just because these trees are not native trees, does not mean there is no conservation value in this instance. The plantation forests of the Whakarewarewa area, including the majestic redwoods and these massive douglas firs, are part of Rotorua's rich heritage of forestry experimentation.
"Labour must get to work now and try to save these stunning trees and this iconic landscape."