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Published: 2003-04-08 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is urging the Government to ensure that any treaty settlement over central North Island forestry areas guarantees open access for forestry vehicles.

The Crown and the receiver of the central North Island Forestry consortium has negotiated a Treaty settlement with Ngati Awa, which could affect long term access across the private forestry roading network.

Regional Land Transport Committee Chairman David Peart said Environment Waikato had developed a Regional transport policy which encouraged the forestry sector to maximise the use of off-highway roading networks and extend and improve the networks where appropriate.

“From a national viewpoint, an effective off-highway roading network reduces expenditure on the state highway network and local roads. The Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions are over-represented in truck crashes, many of which involve logging trucks,” he said.

Environment Waikato had undertaken major reviews on the value of these roads. One undertaken by forestry consultants in 1994, examined the benefits from the reduced numbers of forestry vehicles on public roads, and said that greater use of private forestry roads was a key issue.

“Environment Waikato is concerned that any changes in ownership arising from the Treaty Settlement of land upon which forestry roads are built would compromise the ability of forestry companies to effectively and cost efficiently transport logs across the forests and away from public highways,” Cr Peart said.

Environment Waikato had understood that forestry companies would have access rights for the next 35 years but this was now not clear, and after that would have to negotiate with Ngati Awa. This was the opposite position the Government had taken to toll roading.

“We will continue to press for Government to look at the long term future of these roads in a different light and impress upon them that this is a vital part of the roading network. These settlements were carried out without consultation with other affected parties. Even Local Government New Zealand had no knowledge of this.”

The Committee strongly urged Government to ensure that any Treaty document allowed for continued unimpeded access for forestry vehicles on the private forestry roading network.