13 Jul 2015

Govt to tighten swamp kauri rules

8:44 pm on 13 July 2015

The Government is tightening the export rules for swamp kauri following complaints of illegal exports.

Nathan Guy examines kauri slabs and table tops with Kaihu mill and gallery owner Nelson Parker.

Nathan Guy examines kauri slabs and table tops with Kaihu mill and gallery owner Nelson Parker. Photo: RNZ/ Lois Williams

Northland environmental groups say companies have been abusing the rules by defining items like carved logs and rough-sawn table tops as finished objects, and long planks as stump timber.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said that from now on every stage of the trade, from pulling the wood out of the ground, to milling and exporting will have to be notified and closely inspected.

Mr Guy said there would be increased scrutiny and fuller documentation of exports but companies would still be able to export stump logs and slabs dressed as table tops.

"We can't legislate for value add, and we see a lot of examples here in this business where these products are adding value.

The extraction of ancient kauri.

The extraction of ancient kauri. Photo: Ancientwood

"At the moment there is a market, and this Government is very supporting of growing exports, we believe it is of huge importance to the Northland economy."

Mr Guy deflected suggestions that the tightening of the rules means the swamp kauri trade has not been adequately regulated in the past .

He said the changes were about greater transparency.

Operators will also have to notify the Northland Regional Council of any and all extraction activities.

The swamp kauri industry is said to be worth at least $25 million to the wider Northland economy and provides many jobs but environmental groups and some Maori iwi that want the export of all kauri stopped as it is a finite resource.

The Ministry's forestry and land management director Aoife Martin said increasing the inspections would make a difference.

"We will be increasing the inspections that we do and that's got to improve to clarity and oversight in the law."

But, president of the Northland Environmental Protection Society, Fiona Furrell, said promises from the Ministry to better police exports would do nothing to protect swamp kauri from being shipped overseas.

She said the Forests Act was clear, but the Minister still does not get it.

"He's either being very poorly advised by his officials or he's interpreting the act completely wrongly.

"The intent is there that no planked timber can go out, but he categorically said today that planks would be allowed to be exported."

National MP, Nathan Guy.

National MP, Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson