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Forest Owners Brace For Avalanche Of Clip-boards In Government Measure

The Forest Owners Association says the industry anticipates an unacceptable and pointless bureaucratic cost to all parts of the forest industry, if the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill becomes law.

The bill was introduced into Parliament last night and will go to the Environment Select Committee early next month.

The Forest Owners Association President, Phil Taylor, says the first details forest growers saw of the scheme was when it was introduced last night.

“The government speakers in its first reading debate seem to think that giving a certificate to someone who buys and sells logs, is going to lead to more logs being processed in New Zealand and not exported.”

“That means, for instance, that the government appears to have no confidence in its own $5 billion spending for new housing units. We hope the government will make sure timber is used extensively for this. Labour promised a wood preference policy in the last election.”

“That’s how to build demand for timber. You can’t make processors buy more logs without someone to sell their processed timber too. Someone with a clip-board register isn’t going to work.”

“Either the new law is going to be a pointless system of adding costs and inefficiencies into the timber supply pipeline, or there is some other hidden intent further down the track in regulations under the new law, which is meant to tie trees in red tape and direct timber growing, harvesting and processing.”

“Either way, it’s a disincentive for anyone to invest if it goes through. Just when we have planting picking up again, mostly driven by small scale New Zealand investors and farmers, the government is trying to restrict it.”

“If ethical behaviour is the problem, then there’s plenty of contract and criminal law to deal to that. If bad advice about planting and selling is the problem, then let the government agency, Te Uru Rākau, step up and provide good advice to forest owners – not persecution.”

Phil Taylor says he wonders if the government is also going to target other primary industries to force more domestic processing.

“Sometimes the raw material is the best thing – look at apples and kiwifruit. Is the government going to force the wool industry to process more than the current five percent of the national clip in New Zealand carpet mills? We currently process 42 percent of our wood harvest right here in New Zealand – more than eight times the ratio of the wool industry.”

Phil Taylor says he also can’t understand why the legislation is going to be heard by the Environment Select Committee and not the Primary Production Select Committee.

“The government says the bill is going to be about ethical behaviour and timber processing. So why go to the Environment Select Committee? Forestry operations are governed by the National Environmental Standard for Planation Forestry. It’s the most comprehensive list of environmental regulations under the Resource Management Act. It took eight years to complete. Now something is coming through which the government wants to sort in 15 days.”

Phil Taylor says not only does he want the Primary Production Select Committee to hear submissions, but he wants the committee to carry out an inquiry into the timber supply chain.

“The government obviously has fantasies of employing more processors with no market to sell to. It’s been fundamentally misinformed. Let’s have a proper investigation into how the system works, with plenty of good data, and how it can be properly reformed, to provide more than employment just to people who are issuing registration certificates.”

“We are a major industry. We are fighting climate change with our trees. We have the capacity to provide thousands of jobs, in the forests, in transport and in construction. Jobs are vital in the COVID-19 recovery. We are keen to work with the government. This scheme is a step backwards – not forwards.”

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