Home' Greymouth Star : October 21st 2017 Contents Saturday Afternoon
Saturday, October 21, 2017 - 7
6 - Saturday, October 21, 2017
PICTURES: Anthea and Rex Keenan Collection
Plantation forestry at Granville, Totara Flat.
Scott Martin, left, and Steve Boon in the conservancy office.
Wet, swampy pakihi land was ‘wind-rowed’ and ‘v-bladed’ by bulldozer, ready for planting, thereby turning
non-productive ground into productive forest.
Gus Buckley in the conservancy office.
A controlled burn-off.
West Coast Conser vator of Forests Pat
Fitzgerald oversees a rimu logging operation.
The Forest Service draughting team ham it up outside the conser vancy office in Hokitika in
1973 - Ian Gilbertson, left, Alistair Prangnell, Michael Anderson, Scott Martin, Martin
Erasmusson, Danny Power, Barry Bone, Chris Dunn, Doug McNabb and Dickie Cocks
Keith Bill helps load up a plane at Hokitika Airport.
THE FINAL CUT
The Forest Service was so entrenched on the West
Coast last century that a future without forestry was
inconceivable. This was the leviathan of government
departments with a well oiled structure and a clear
purpose - to keep the mills supplied with logs, and to
maintain plantation forests to sustain them into the
It employed armies of men to harvest, clear and
re-plant, and it supported the sawmills that employed
many hundreds more. Like nicotine, the wheezing
economy depended on it and couldn’t do without it, or
so everyone thought. Until Rogernomics.
In 1987 the fourth Labour government embarked
on a slash and burn of the old government sector, as
Finance Minister Roger Douglas set about a ruthless
dismantling of institutions like the Post Office,
Railways, State Mines and the Forest Service. In one
foul swoop, ‘inefficient ’ government departments
were abolished, replaced by corporate models, and
thousands of jobs were lost.
The 68-year-old forestry model was abolished,
its place taken by a business-minded Forestry
Corporation of New Zealand (part of which later
morphed into Timberlands West Coast) and a
brand new government agency, the Department of
In its heyday the Forest Service was so big on the
West Coast that it spawned its own little ‘towns’ at
Hari Hari and Granville (Totara Flat), which both
had large forestry compounds with rows of houses,
stores, offices and single men’s quarters, while Reefton
housed a vast training facility and accommodation.
Hari Hari -- under the wing of district ranger
Dave Hilliard, who went on to lead Timberlands
West Coast through its later turbulent history —
was focused on clearfelling and selective logging
of indigenous forests of South Westland, and the
experimental plantation of Tasmanian backwoods near
Lake Ianthe. Granville was also the regional nursery
that sprouted millions of pinus radiata trees for the
future West Coast.
In between were tens of thousands of acres of
production and plantation forests with familiar names
such as Wanganui, Saltwater, Mahinapua, Kaniere,
Waimea, Nemona, Mawhera, Hotchstetter and many
others, stretching from Okarito to Karamea.
At the heart of it all was the conservancy office,
centrally located in Hokitika under the direction of
the conservator of forests, in latter years Pat Fitzgerald
then Peter Berg and lastly Eddie Kearns.
Nothing was done in half-measure. The self-
supporting Forest Service was not only responsible
for harvesting and nurturing forests, it built a vast
network of roads the length of the Coast, ran its own
fire service, controlled pests over millions of hectares,
and also stretched into recreation with backcountry
huts, grids of tracks and, in a back room at the
conservancy office in Hokitika, conservation.
That quiet back room, led by Bruce Watson,
was a harbinger of what was to come when the
unsustainable forestry model finally ran its course
in 1987; he was to become the first West Coast
conservator for the new DOC.
Before the axe fell on the Forest Service the West
Coast rallied with typical protests, and the State
Services Commissioner himself visited Hokitika, but
resistance was futile.
Rogernomics and a groundswell environmentalism
in the cities had sealed its fate.
Hundreds of staff were left to compete for dozens of
jobs in the two new entities; a few transferred across
to DOC, although it largely recruited from outside
the West Coast, while the hardcore forestry skills were
snapped up by the future Timberlands. Everyone in
between missed out.
Like a shining cuckoo, the Department of
Conservation moved into the vacant Forest Service
conservancy office. It created some soreness at the
time for the once proud and indomitable forestry
Thirty years later, DOC has not only supplanted
the Forest Service but it has put down firm roots as a
community partner, employer and corporate citizen.
As the Forest Service is the past and DOC the future,
both have played a massive part in shaping the West
Coast of today.
For 68 years the New Zealand Forest Service dominated life, industry
and landscape on the West Coast. Forestry and sawmilling was big
business here in the 20th century and the Forest Service was its king.
But it was unsustainable and in 1987 the chainsaws were turned
off and it was the Forest Ser vice itself and not the forests that faced the
final cut. Thirty years later, ex-forestry workers are getting back together
in Hokitika this weekend to reminisce about the old days out in the
forests. Ex-Forest Service Hokitika staff member (1981-84)
PAUL MADGWICK reflects on the end days of this West Coast
Thirty years since Forest Service was axed
An injured Richard (‘Squeak’) Dense is carried out by Chris East, Bob
Lawn, Dave Mosely and Frank Creighton. Dense suffered a serious leg injur y
after slipping while climbing over a fallen rimu. He slid down his razor sharp
slasher, which cut through his calf to the bone. He made a full recover y.
Back row: Henk Stengs, left, Scott Martin, Chris Dunn, Doug NcNabb, John Phahlert, Alan Buckland, Neil Challenger.
Third row: John Dimmick, Neil Beecroft, Harry Keenan, Ian Gilbertson, Danny Power, Gladwyn Rathgen, Sue Connolly, Mike Anderson, Steve Henery, Vern Curtain, David Eastwood, Nick Hancox, Dennis Kelly, Dave Oldman, Bob Richards, Danny Ryan, Neil Gray, Keith Griffiths,
Jim Jamieson, Brian Walsh, Craig Murdoch.
Second row: Dave Beazley, Jim Staton, Marj Curtain, Marie Beams, Loretta Smith, Feona McKenzie, Anne Hutchison, Diane Thorn, Lisa Wells, Helen Fanselow, Mary-Anne Thorpe, Janet Bathgate, Jenny Bennett, Bruce Watson, Tony Croft.
Front row: Glen Kearns, Diane Craig, Suzanne Heckler, Michael Orchard, Peter Allan, Eddie Kearns, Andy Mar wick, John McLoughlin, Ross Jackson, Gus Buckley, Mer v O’Reilly.
Absent: Cam Barrowman, Ray Hooker, Richard Penrose, Lyn Ross, Ian Platt (taking photo).
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