My full name is Allan Michael Rackham.
1.0 Education, Qualifications
1.1 I am a consultant landscape architect with 26 years professional experience. I am a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects and a principal and director of the planning, design and ecology company - Boffa Miskell Limited. I have a four year undergraduate diploma in landscape architecture and a Masters of Philosophy in landscape planning from the University of Sheffield. Prior to joining Boffa Miskell in 1987 I was senior lecturer and head of landscape architecture at Lincoln University. My teaching responsibilities included visual assessment, landscape planning and landscape conservation. I have also taught at two tertiary institutions in the United Kingdom. For the past 11 years I have worked as a consultant on a wide range of developments and management investigations for a full range of clients. Many of these have involved complex and controversial developments that have led to the Environment Court.
2.0 Involvement with this project
2.1 In late 1999 I was approached by Simpson Grierson, counsel for Timberlands West Coast Limited (Timberlands), and was asked to provide some brief landscape evidence to this hearing.
2.2 I am familiar with the general area of the application having been involved in project work in the Buller, Inangahua and Maruia areas. On December 6 I revisited the area with the objectives of viewing sustainable beech logging in action and re-familiarising myself with the landscapes of the application areas. I took the opportunity to view, by helicopter, areas worked in the previous 12 months near Springs Junction. I observed the helicopter log retrieval process in action.
2.3 My evidence is based on this visit, limited discussion with Boffa Miskell ecologists and planners, Timberlands personnel, and background material provided by Timberlands. The background information included the executive summary of the Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) Section 6.5 û 'Natural Features and Landscapes' and a draft of the evidence presented at this hearing by Mr Kit Richards û Timberlands' General Manager, Planning.
3.0 Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes
3.1 The Timberlands approach to landscape is set out in Section 6.5 of the AEE. It has noted that Section 6(b) of the Resource Management Act requires the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use and development. It is therefore necessary in the first instance to identify what outstanding natural features and landscapes occur within the application area, and secondly whether the proposed use and development will be inappropriate.
3.2 It is my understanding that Buller District Council has reserved discretion over the protection of outstanding landscapes, but that it has not identified any areas of outstanding natural features or landscapes within its Proposed Plan. Consequently I have made my own very brief assessment of outstanding natural features and landscapes based on past experience of the area coupled with my recent site visit.
3.3 At a broad scale the Paparoa Range to the west, and parts of the Victoria and Brunner ranges between the Inangahua and Maruia valleys and the Lyell Range to the north may meet the criteria of outstanding landscapes. The main valleys are highly attractive but unlikely to be considered outstanding. At a more detailed level, there are many natural features or local landscapes that may be seen as outstanding. Clearly, the Buller and Maruia Rivers in particular are very special, as are a number of the spectacular rock outcrops.
3.4 I have reviewed the maps of the areas proposed for sustainable beech management and in my view they do appear to have been located to avoid the most obvious of these special landscapes. Within the working areas a number of more localised features and areas of particular significance have been identified and excluded from the areas to be worked. An analysis of Appendix 6 of the AEE û 'Areas Reserved from Production' shows that in some areas these are extensive.
3.5 Within the areas that I was able to visit or see from public vantage points it was apparent that substantial modifications have occurred in the past, either through logging or pasture development, and so on. While containing extensive areas of forest they were near to, or contained modified areas. They are dominantly natural landscapes but in several cases they did not appear to be pristine areas. An analysis of the maps in Appendix 8 of the AEE û 'Recovery Forests at Start Up' gives an indication of the variable 'quality' of the existing forest condition.
3.6 Based on this very brief analysis it is my view that firstly, the obviously outstanding landscapes have been avoided, and secondly, within the working areas, specific features have been excluded from production.
3.7 The second issue that needs to be addressed under Section 6(b) is whether the proposed activity is inappropriate. In my opinion this is unlikely to be the case. As I stated earlier, these landscapes are largely outside the pristine, iconic landscapes of the alpine and West Coast region. They are inclined to be in areas that are less dramatic. They are near to, or contain, partially modified areas. It is my understanding from the information provided to me that the sustainable beech management approach is an attempt to mimic natural ecological dynamics. This is a highly dynamic landscape. As such, the effects of the proposal on the natural values of these landscapes will not be great. Minimising modifications to the beech forest plant community and its associated fauna have been determinants of the logging process. Logging the activity is highly unlikely to have a significant impact on the intrinsic natural values expressed in the landscape.
3.8 The geological and geomorphological values within the landscapes will not be affected by the proposal in any way. Where new roading is required, and I understand that this is limited (Appendix 9 of AEE), the routes will largely be on the valley floors, away from the more sensitive bluffs and spurs.
3.9 While I have carried out no specific investigations into Maori values associated with these areas, the particular locations of the work areas and the nature of their terrain suggests that they will not be focal points for Maori values. I understand that the applicants have consulted with the appropriate Maori representatives and that they are generally comfortable with the proposal.
3.10 My visual analysis, which follows below, strongly supports the view that the aesthetic values of landscapes in this area will not be adversely affected by the proposal. New or upgraded tracking, landing sites and the working areas themselves are all relatively minor features in what is a very large landscape generally seen (if at all) from distant public viewpoints. Where logging will occur near to the main valleys, the landscape has often already been significantly modified and this proposal will result in minimal or no observable change.
3.11 In summary, my view of this proposal's impacts on the outstanding natural features and landscapes of the area is that they will be very minor indeed. They will not result in adverse effects that are more than minor under Section 6(b) of the Resource Management Act.
4.0 Amenity Values
4.1 Section 7(c) of the Resource Management Act refers to amenity values. The Council is required to have particular regard to:
'c) The maintenance and enhancement of amenity values'
4.2 Amenity values are defined as:
"Amenity Values", means those natural or physical qualities and characteristics of an area that contribute to people's appreciation of its pleasantness, aesthetic coherence, and cultural and recreational attributes"
4.3 This part of the South Island is a popular tourist and recreational area with many people passing through on the major state highways. People are also attracted to the area for fishing, hunting and other recreational pursuits. The resident population, whilst relatively sparse, is concentrated in the valleys. Residents will be the major users of the surrounding less accessible areas that are the subjects of this application.
4.4 Clearly, concerns have been expressed in the past that the visual effects of this harvesting will be substantial. Based on my understanding of the nature of the surrounding landscape and my limited site inspections, I am of the view that the visual effects of harvesting will be minor. The gaps in the canopy that resulted from the working in the area north east of Springs Junction were very small and not dissimilar to natural gaps resulting from death of individual large trees. I was unable, during a very low level flyover, to anticipate whether the gaps in the canopy were natural or as a result of harvesting. It was only when hovering directly over the gaps that on some occasions I would be able to see stumps, and on others naturally fallen timber. Based on that experience, my view is that the issue of harvest gaps is actually one of on-ground, within the forest, experience, rather than the visibility of working areas from adjacent viewpoints. The only potentially significant effect is likely to be when moving through the forest and coming across a glade with tree stumps. It is my understanding that material not helicoptered out is left to rot and assist forest regeneration, and that other management techniques are used to restore these areas as rapidly as possible. I do not have evidence on the speed with which these areas will recover a predominantly natural appearance.
4.5 A visual analysis of the adjacent unworked areas around the Buller and within the Inangahua and Maruia valleys show forest mosaics on adjacent hillsides with numerous large and small patches of ground free from native trees. Clearly a number of these are a consequence of past earthquakes, heavy rainfall events, and natural forest cycles. The sustainable harvesting of the type that I experienced would have lesser visual consequences than these natural occurrences.
4.6 In my view the occasional visitor or tourist passing through the region would not experience any effects from the proposal. I also consider it highly unlikely that most residents would be aware of the changes.
4.7 I agree with Section 6.5.2 of the AEE, which suggests that roading has a greater potential for adverse impacts on the landscape than the actual harvest areas themselves. However, I also note that 80% of the roading network is already in place. The roading standards are such that they will not replicate some of the environmentally damaging constructions of the past. The performance standards to minimise landscape impacts will go a considerable way to avoid some of the scarring from road construction that is evident today. A cursory analysis of the maps contained in the AEE suggests that where new roading is required it will not be directly visible from any important public viewpoints. I also note that they will not be permitted within areas identified as of landscape importance.
4.8 Based on these considerations it is my opinion that the sustainable beech management proposal is unlikely to have any significant effect on the amenity values of the residents or visitors to the region unless they are specifically visiting these forests with an expectation of a wilderness experience and come across areas that have been harvested. Realistically, this is unlikely to be a frequent occurrence.
4.9 The felling and recovery operations themselves have a particular set of impacts resulting mostly from the noise of chainsaws and helicopters.
4.10 I observed recovery operations north of Springs Junction. Two helicopters were operating, one carrying tackle and the other, bringing cut logs out from the forest. There was a machine stacking logs, a fuel tanker for the helicopters, and a number of workers' vehicles. While I was observing the operations there were three minibuses full of visitors who had also arrived to observe the operation. The main impact was that of the sound of helicopters, which were arriving at the stacking area every few minutes. When close, they are significantly noisy. However, having analysed the plans in the AEE it is clear that these areas are mostly well away from any settlements, and it is highly unlikely that the sporadic nature of these operations would cause anything more than minor adverse effects on peoples' amenity values. Indeed it is a fascinating operation to observe and it is probable that it is an attraction in its own right.
5.1 Based on my analysis described above, I conclude that the proposal will not have more than minor adverse effects on outstanding natural features and landscapes or on landscape related amenity values.