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Northland Environmental Protection Society Decision





First Respondent


Second Respondent


Third Respondent
Hearing: 20 June 2018

Court: William Young, Glazebrook, O’Regan, Ellen France and Arnold JJ

A The appeal relating to the interpretation of the export restriction in s 67C(1)(b) of the Forests Act 1949 is allowed.

B The appeal relating to the Protected Objects Act 1975 is dismissed.

C Costs are reserved.


[1] This appeal concerns the export of swamp kauri and products made from swamp kauri.1 Swamp kauri is kauri that has been buried and preserved in swamps for anywhere between 800 and 60,000 years.2 It is found largely in Northland in areas that were, but usually are no longer, wetlands. It is extracted almost exclusively from privately owned scrub or farm land and is of high commercial value, given its age and 1 Leave to appeal was granted on 19 April 2018: Northland Environmental Protection Society Inc v Chief Executive of the Ministry for Primary Industries [2018] NZSC 36. 2 For a brief discussion on the background of swamp kauri see Northland Environmental Protection Society Inc v Chief Executive of the Ministry of Primary Industries [2017] NZHC 308 (Toogood J) [Northland (HC)] at [1]. the size of the timber pieces that can be milled. Exports of swamp kauri increased significantly from 2010 to 2015.

[2] The appellant, Northland Environmental Protection Society Inc (NEPS), has as one of its purposes the protection of indigenous biodiversity ecosystems in Northland. NEPS became concerned that swamp kauri was being exported out of New Zealand illegally. In 2015 it brought proceedings in the High Court which sought, by way of judicial review and under the Declaratory Judgments Act 1908, certain declarations relating to the interpretation and operation of s 67C of the Forests Act 1949, the Customs and Excise Act 1996 and the Protected Objects Act 1975.3 The declarations now sought in this Court relate only to the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Forests Act and the Protected Objects Act.



[98] The appeal relating to the interpretation of the export restriction in s 67C(1)(b) of the Forests Act is allowed. The interpretation of that provision and its associated definition is as set out in this judgment.

[99] We do not make the declarations sought by NEPS as to the operation of s 67C(1)(b) and the definition of finished or manufactured indigenous timber product. This judgment has set out the correct interpretation of those provisions. We do not consider that there is any added benefit in making a declaration. Further, any declaration would of necessity be truncated and not able to capture our full reasoning.

[100] The appeal relating to the Protected Objects Act is dismissed for the reasons set out above128 which differ in some respects from those of the Court of Appeal.

Full Decision http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1811/Court decision.pdf

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