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Blocking MFAT Advice On New Forestry Bill ‘concerning,’ Says NZ Initiative

 

Wellington, 16 June 2020 - The Government’s refusal to let its skilled public servants advise a Select Committee about new legislation is “deeply concerning,” said The New Zealand Initiative.

Today, the Environment Select Committee published its final report on Minister Shane Jones' Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Bill. Despite the Bill’s many flaws – and an unprecedented chorus of disapproval – it has emerged from the Select Committee largely unsubdued.

The Bill’s purported purpose is to create an occupational licensing regime for log traders and forestry advisers. It deems all forest owners to be “log traders,” thereby subjecting them to the registration and regulatory requirements of the new accreditation scheme.

The New Zealand Initiative chairman Roger Partridge said during the Select Committee process, forestry owners raised concerns that the Bill’s regulation and rule-making powers could be used to require logs to be provided to domestic mills and to otherwise intervene with the commercial terms in log sale and purchase agreements.

But according to the National Party’s dissenting minority view in the Select Committee report, New Zealand’s top trade officials were blocked from advising the Government on how the Bill might hurt the country’s trade relationships.

International trade obligations prevent New Zealand from imposing restrictions on the export of products trading partners which are member states of the World Trade Organisation.

Partridge said the Government prohibiting MFAT officials from talking to a Select Committee to present their judgement on an important Bill is “deeply concerning.”

“With the economy on its knees, the last thing Kiwis need to hear is that lawmakers aren’t getting access to the advice of their most competent public servants.

“For a Government that champions unity, it is acting unreasonably divisively by excluding its own officials from the legislative process,” Partridge said.
 

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