New Zealand Journal of Forestry (1996) 41(2): 20–26
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry
The New Zealand Forest Accord: A step backward in participatory forest management
A. G. D. Whyte
This contribution to the debate on the New Zealand Institute of Forestry's need to sign the 1991 New Zealand Forest Accord reflects a long-held view that decisions related to forestry should be made with a clear understanding on a full range of functions any forest should serve and an equally full participatory deliberative process in the priorities, compromises and trade-offs that all such possible functions should be accorded in deciding what is best to be done in any one set of circumstances. The Forest Accord appears to exclude a large number of rightful stakeholders in the decision-making process and to focus operationally on only plantation forestry concerns, though the real issue is to enhance the quantity and quality nationally of all, including indigenous, forests.
The opinion offered here is that New Zealand should rather address the wider context of all kinds of forestry in New Zealand in line with the Resource Management Act, the UNCED Principles emanating from Rio and the Montreal Process, to which the New Zealand Government is a signatory. The Institute should reject an agreement which serves the interests of only some relevant groups, which excludes relevant participatory deliberation on decisions about resources and which does not consider a holistic range of forest functions, all types of forest and the national as opposed to only the local picture. The preoccupation in New Zealand with primacy of single uses, strict zonation of resource classification and ecological precedence over social, economic and cultural well-being has hampered conservation in the past and is continuing to do so in terms of how some people interpret the Accord. Indications are given here of earlier attempts to encourage the study of New Zealand resource problems using real multiple-objective planning, and also of how recent technological developments have made use of these techniques much more readily applicable. Unless recognition is made of the need (i) to effect compromises and trade-offs; (ii) to make decision-making participatory and transparent; and (Ui) to ensure that outcomes are accountable, the conservation of resources by owners of property rights and the funding of it by these owners and the taxpayer will never be properly achieved.