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Kiwi Battlers Hit By Rimu Timetable

15 May 2000




The seemingly unbridgeable gulf between the reality of commercial life for hundreds of small and medium New Zealand businesses and green ideology is highlighted by the decision to ban sustainable rimu logging in state owned forests on the West Coast within two years.

Stating this today, the President of the Furniture Association of New Zealand, Mr Tony Phillips, said the association had tried its hardest to explain to the Government the business realities that would flow from such a decision.

These are:
 Potential job losses totalling approximately 4000 around the country
 A drop in furniture export sales from the 1999 calendar year figure of $82.7 million
 A loss of foreign exchange savings through import substitution
 Further loss of confidence in the Government’s ability to understand the realities of doing business in New Zealand today.

“This is an industry of 12,000 people that is made up of hundreds of small businesses with less than 10 people. Approximately 1300 companies comprise firms with four employees or less. They might well be characterised as good Kiwi business battlers who are trying to make a living in towns and cities scattered throughout the country.”

“We have sought to explain to the Government in detail the difficulties they face in adjusting to such a decision. We have sought constructive dialogue, not confrontation. We have explained that we need five to eight years to adjust.

“We have told the Government that we believe it was not unreasonable for our members to have relied on Government assurances that under the West Coast Accord there was to be sufficient indigenous timber available for our industry in perpetuity from sustainably managed Crown forests.

“At every turn we have been frustrated. Suggestions were made that we had plenty of time to find alternative sources of timber for our industry. This line of approach conveniently forgot it was only six months ago the Government banned all West Coast beech logging that had been the alternative we were studying for rimu replacement.

“Then we were told there were plenty of alternative sources of various woods. The business reality is that these stands are scattered about the country and much of the wood is not suitable at this stage for many of our members because of processing difficulties. It takes considerable time to develop new processes for handling new types of wood; to develop top class designs appropriate for new woods; to accustom consumers to new types of wood-based furniture and to establish marketing campaigns for this.

“We are sympathetic to the Government’s general position on preservation of the native forest estate and have always supported sustainable management practices. We do not say that over time adjustments cannot be made by our industry. But we do say that it is extremely difficult, and probably impossible, for the industry to adjust at present levels of business within the time frame now set..

“It is fair to say we now expect the green lobby to go into overtime to justify the Government’s decision. We hope they will spare a thought for the small business Kiwi battlers hit by the decision.

“After all, there are 6.4 million hectares of native forests in New Zealand. of which some five million hectares are set aside in the conservation estate and are not available for timber production. The industry does not have a problem with this.

“But it does illustrate that the 25,000 cubic metres of rimu timber currently required by the industry is a drop in the bucket. Based on a conservative and sustainable harvesting level of one cubic metre per hectare per year this would involve only 0.4 percent of New Zealand’s total native forest area.” Ends.

For further information: Tony Phillips or Marcia Dunnett
President Executive Director,
Tel: (09) 274 8048 Tel: (04) 473-3000 (work)
Tel: (04) 233 8999 (pvt)

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