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Minister’s approach to wood processing industry criticised

Union criticises Minister’s Pollyanna approach to wood processing industry

The National Distribution Union (NDU) says the wood processing industry is still facing difficult times, despite the Forestry Minister talking up the health of the industry this week.

NDU General Secretary Robert Reid noted the launch of an initiative this week to boost Bay of Plenty processed wood products, and said the union had welcomed the announcement in July of a new forest derivatives processing plant near Rotorua.

“However, behind this positive talk, in the real world the industry is haemorrhaging. Our union is still dealing regularly with wood processing job losses, including several in recent weeks in Kawerau, Tangiwai and Fielding, and is aware of closures and reduced hours in other areas.”

Over 1,000 jobs had been lost in the industry since 2008, more than a hundred jobs have gone in the last few weeks, he said.

Robert Reid said the government should be taking a strategic approach to procurement of locally manufactured wood for the Christchurch rebuild, so that local firms benefit from the wood required, not processors in Chile and other areas.

“Rather than laying off workers, local mills could then be busy processing timber and stockpiling it for the on-going use in Christchurch in the coming years.”

The high New Zealand dollar also continued to punish exporters of processed wood products and steps to tackle the New Zealand dollar were needed, he said.

“Governments do have options available to them. A high dollar is not a natural phenomenon over which we have no control.”

“Finally the much vaunted sustainable label for New Zealand pulp is under threat as pulp mill employers tell us that with the demise of saw milling, they are unable to get enough chips as “waste” bi-product and will have to chip higher grade logs for their pulp production.”

The National Distribution Union represents 23,000 workers including 1,600 in wood processing.

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