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'Wall of wood' jobs being exported: Ewen-Street

13 April 2004

'Wall of wood' jobs being exported: Ewen-Street

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street says the forestry sector's present slump demonstrates that New Zealand needs to put a greater emphasis on added-value exports.

"The long-signalled 'wall of wood' is finally beginning to come on stream and yet our forestry, processing and manufacturing industries are still configured to only realise a fraction of its potential value," said Mr Ewen-Street, the Green Party Spokesperson on Forestry.

"It is all very well for the forestry industry to wring its hands and complain about the high NZ dollar, but the down-turn in forestry returns is really a market signal that we need to start thinking laterally and come up with some alternatives to treating timber as a commodity.

"Many Kiwis are appalled to see huge piles of round logs stacked up awaiting export on wharves around the country and rightly ask why we don't add more value to them here.

"It just does not make sense for New Zealand to export low-value round logs and then import higher-value wood products such as processed custom board. We can do most types of processing here and, I believe, the industry should be investing to keep its jobs in New Zealand.

Mr Ewen-Street said another way to achieve greater product value was to move away from the present monocultures of trees such as pinus radiata towards slower-growing species that suit very-high-value niche markets, such as furniture and musical instruments.

"In essence it means narrowing the gap in the value chain between the harvesters and the final consumer. As well as making sound economic sense, the avoidance of monocultures is the best environmental practice, as multi-species ecosystems are much more robust and self-sustaining," said Mr Ewen-Street.


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