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Govt can't see wood for the trees

Brian Connell National Forestry Spokesperson

18 July 2003

Govt can't see wood for the trees

The forestry sector is experiencing tough times, yet the Government seems unable to put in place any coherent growth strategy while their anti-business legislation is only compounding the problem, says National Forestry Spokesperson Brian Connell.

His comments follow his recent visits to Hawke's Bay, Rotorua and Northland where he met with a number of forestry representatives. "The industry has a number of structural issues that only it can address, but the Government needs to step up to the mark otherwise one of our industries will be irrevocably damaged.

"Demand for our logs in the United States has declined markedly. This lack of demand, in part driven by a soaring New Zealand dollar and attractive exchange rates for our major rivals, coupled with cheap Russian timber and increased shipping costs, means exporting logs has become marginal at best.

"The impact is that major foresters are either cutting back production, as in the case of Carter Holt Harvey, or stopping harvesting altogether. Some contractors risk losing everything after investing their life savings in the business. The labour shortage is already severe enough without this type of volatility. People in this industry need certainty and stability or they will go and work elsewhere.

"Instead of pursuing socialist dogma, the Government needs to amend the Resource Management Act to accelerate development consents, and put long-term measures in place to solve electricity shortages, both in terms of price and certainty of supply.

"The best start it could make in restoring the viability of our timber industries would be to give back the carbon credits not required to meet New Zealand commitments under the Kyoto protocol.

"Anybody can look good in the best of times, but had the Government had a coherent growth strategy, it would never have signed Kyoto and the issues around electricity and the RMA would have been addressed," he said.


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