Conserving decorative timber in the Beehive
...from Brian Swale, campaigner for sustainable forestry.
Special Purpose Timber Species in NZ and the $40 million re-fit of Parliament Buildings; March 2001.
ANEGRE ( Aningeria robusta; Sapotaceae, 1934, is a tree about 30 metres tall) and is traded under the names Tanganika, Mukali, Grogoli, English tawa, agnegre, aninguerie, aniegre, landosan, mukali, kali, osan, mutoke, mukangu, muna and Tasmanian walnut. It grows in tropical Africa from western Ivory Coast right through to Tanzania and Kenya in the east.
The stable, light-coloured attractive timber it yields is in widespread use throughout Europe and North America, and several New Zealand specialist timber suppliers stock it as panelling. It looks like tawa.
Apparently, there is very widespread use of tawa in the Beehive - from corridors to lobbies, to Ministers’ rooms. The manner of use is as solid wood small panels and detailing, and larger panels of tawa veneer; all finished with a clear varnish. The clear varnish would display to best advantage the flawless surface and pleasing grain of this light straw-coloured New Zealand indigenous timber.
I am told that apart from the surfaces of some panels being a little grubby after a couple of decades exposure to the goings-on of the parliamentary population, they were generally in excellent condition.
This raises an obvious question. Clearly there was widespread satisfaction with the performance, both visually and physically, of tawa. If this were not the case, the replacement would have been with something quite different. The question is, if the present Government is so much in favour of conservation, especially of indigenous species, WHY ARE THE PANELS BEING REPLACED AT ALL?
There are plenty of craftsmen who could clean, sand and re-varnish the existing panels so that they would look like new.
These excellent existing tawa panels could be conserved to serve the country for another 40 years.
Secondly, this episode highlights that New Zealand has neither the policy nor the means to carry one out, to develop a sustainable resource of exotic special purpose timber species. One WAS initiated in 1980 after the 1979 Special Purpose Species Workshop examined the timber supply situation, identified suitable species, and government set about establishing the resource. But of course this went down the tubes when the Forest Service was destructured in 1987.
Thirdly, in respect of sustainably produced special purpose timbers from NZ native forests, this episode highlights the shortsightedness of a dogma- based government policy that had, in 1999, potentially in perpetuity, $2 million of rimu logs being produced sustainably from 9,000 ha, and $32 million of beech logs to be produced sustainably from 98,000 ha, all in the West Coast; scrapped. Scrapped in order to satisfy specious promises made to distant, urban and semi-urban marginal electorates. New Zealand imports currently $NZ 1,104 million per annum of forest products, timber and wooden furniture imports being $NZ 153 million of this. The hypocrisy contained in this policy is clear and shameful.
This whole episode demonstrates woolly thinking, unclear goals and poor policy-making by the government. New Zealand deserves better.
Brian Swale is a forestry professional who supports the practice of environmentally sound sustainable forestry. He can be contacted at http://www.caverock.net.nz/~bj/beech/ and 03-326-7447.