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Hope for timber industry under Labour

MEDIA RELEASE
Liz Craig
Labour Candidate for Clutha Southland

Hope for timber industry under Labour

“The Balclutha timber workers who have lost their livelihoods today are the casualties of a Government which has no jobs strategy and is allowing regional New Zealand to wither,” said Liz Craig, Labour’s Candidate for Clutha Southland tonight. “This is a significant job loss to a community which needs hope. It will have a ripple effect across the South Otago economy and flies in the face of the government’s claims of a rockstar economy.

“The families affected by the closure of Southern Cross Timber’s Rosebank sawmill in Balclutha are not alone,” she said. “They join a growing number of families affected by failure to address systematic issues affecting our timber industry”.

“All over New Zealand the timber industry is under stress. The Government knows about the situation but has chosen not to take a strategic stance to develop this important industry”.

Otago and Southland contains 11.8% of New Zealand’s forest plantations, by far the largest area in the South Island and the second largest in the country. But the wood processing industry is being mishandled; worth $4.5 billion per annum half the exports are raw logs which are being processed offshore, providing no incentive for overseas owners to add value in New Zealand.

As global demand hikes up log prices, New Zealand’s wood processing industry is struggling. Otago-based Southern Cross Forest Products recently went into receivership, sparking concern of further job losses in the region.

“If New Zealand is to achieve higher value added processing the whole timber industry needs to be put on a firmer footing”.

Labour’s Forestry and Wood Products Industry Policy aims to create skilled, well-paid jobs by capturing a greater share of our resource value and keeping it at home.

The key elements of the policy are:

To encourage investment we will provide tax deferrals in the form of accelerated depreciation to encourage industry to invest in new technology and plant.

To boost innovation we will work with the industry and public science bodies to develop new products and technologies.

To support industry development we will introduce measures to rebalance away from sending more raw logs overseas to developing more and better production here. These include:

•A Pro-Wood government procurement policy for government-funded buildings up to four storeys high to boost the domestic market.

•Suspensory loans to encourage new forest planting.

•Forestry taskforces for long-term unemployed.

•Introduce legacy forest status to protect our indigenous forests.

“These are not empty promises. For too long the forestry industry has been neglected. We now have a strong set of policies to address the decline. Regional New Zealand needs a plan to deliver jobs and economic growth,” said Liz Craig.

ENDS

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