INDEPENDENT NEWS

Scientists Refute Government Spin-Campaign

Published: Wed 2 Feb 2000 12:52 AM
“We’re interested in getting the truth out- not political gain.” said Dr Brendan Moyle, a senior lecturer with experience in conservation and sustainable use. “Opposition to the new Government is coming from conservation ecologists and professional scientists. Not the Opposition, not big business but scientists” said Dr Moyle. Dr Moyle was reacting to recent press releases by the Government, asserting the scientists are pro-logging.
“New Zealand is still losing its forests under the old lock-up strategy” said Dr Moyle, “Reserves aren’t enough. Timberlands gave us a chance to try something new. Maybe forestry could turn a profit and stop species loss.” The ecologists had realised that strict preservation wasn’t enough. “This was the government’s first mistake” explained Dr Moyle, “they thought the scientific community would support them.”
For a Government trying to establish a reputation for being ‘green’ this scientific opposition is embarrassing. Who is really going to believe that a bunch of ecologists are less scientifically informed and more politically motivated than the Labour Party? “The Government is vulnerable on this issue” explained Dr Moyle, “they can’t keep up this frantic attack on our group’s integrity and that’s the best card they’ve got.” The email group was established informally and has grown rapidly- helped by colleagues’ distaste at the Government’s spin-campaign.
The mess started when the Government stopped Timberlands from going for its resource consent. Up until then the Resource Management Act was used to tell if a project was sustainable. Timberlands had to pass a legal test. “Why was the consent process stopped?” askes Dr Moyle, “if the project really was going to wreck the beech-forests the Environment Court would’ve picked it up”. The timing of the Government’s move shows their evidence was too thin to match their pre-election rhetoric. Instead of science being applied to our forest management, a political party in ‘campaign-mode’ got away with a vote-catching gambit. The RMA was supposed to stop the environment being sacrificed for short-term political gains. The new Government got around the RMA. Native forests have become a political football. What they really need is stable, sound management.
The ecologists’ opposition to the Government’s forestry policy started with Timberlands. But it is a much bigger issue than that. Management of native forests should be scientifically informed. The government is not opposed by pro-loggers. It is being opposed by ecologists who want to put science back into forestry management.

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