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Timber Treatment Proposals Threaten Forestry Ind

Timber Treatment Proposals Threaten Forestry Industry

Proposed changes to building regulations as a result of the leaky buildings issue are ludicrous and represent a major threat to the country’s third largest export industry, the New Zealand Forest Industries Council said today.

Chief executive Stephen Jacobi said the Building Industry Authority’s recommendation that all timber framing in new houses should be treated was the regulatory equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Without denying the need to address the weathertightness problem, it was important to get both the problem and the proposed solution in perspective. According to the Weathertightness Homes Resolution Service, less than 1 percent of all new houses were affected.

“The industry has consistently advocated that the proper response to the problem of weathertightness should be to address its cause – those high-risk design, construction and cladding styles that have been clearly established as creating the unacceptable problems of leaky buildings,” Mr Jacobi said in a speech prepared for a Wellington Rotary Club lunch today.

“Our estimate is that something like 14 percent of the timber used in construction in New Zealand is used in these types of building systems. Where these systems are used it makes perfect sense to require the use of treated timber as an extra insurance policy.”

But it was a nonsense to impose such a strict requirement on all timber used for construction. The BIA’s proposals, currently the subject of public consultation, could be intensely damaging.

“They are damaging because they will not solve the issues they are trying to address and will in the process cost every person building a new home in New Zealand an extra $4000 to $5000.

“They are damaging because they undermine the reputation of radiata pine in international markets and the perception of wood as a building material in New Zealand.

“And they are damaging because they pose a direct threat to the production of the Douglas Fir species which cannot be effectively treated but which has a solid history of performance as a construction material.”
Douglas Fir accounted for just over 5 percent of New Zealand’s current forest resource and was in widespread use for timber framing especially in the South Island, Mr Jacobi said.

The industry was already facing serious issues in the form of an appreciating exchange rate, fluctuating energy prices, higher freight charges and excessive tariffs and trade barriers in key international markets.

It did not need another challenge imposed on it in the form of a disproportionate response to a serious, but relatively limited, problem.

At $5 billion turnover and 23,000 direct employees, forestry was already the country’s third largest exporter. But the industry’s vision was a $20 billion turnover and 60,000 direct employees by 2025.

“Forestry is a critical component of the New Zealand economy. With the right mix of public policy, well founded, sensible regulation and efficient infrastructure, market access and market development and with the industry and government working in partnership we can overcome the current challenges and continue to grow and expand,” Mr Jacobi said.

The Forest Industries Council had participated in the BIA consultation process and would continue to make its views known in the hope that wisdom prevailed.

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